California Riding Magazine • May, 2010

Shadow Hills Riding Club
Therapeutic Horsemanship
New therapeutic riding center
offers rewards for all involved.

Photo ©Erpelding Photography

Rockin W Ranch is a small, quaint facility covering 11 acres of beautiful secluded rolling hills. Located just 15 minutes north of Burbank in the small town of Shadow Hills, Rockin W is a boarding and training facility for hunter/jumpers, dressage and western disciplines and was once the home of acclaimed AQHA champion Silver Inspiration.

A year ago Johnny Higginson and his partner Andrew Mikiel purchased the land Rockin W Ranch is nestled on, which has been in Higginson’s family for over 30 years. While the farm has always been known for top training and quality horse care, they wanted to change the feeling of the farm from an emphasis on performance to a place of healing. Andrew’s long time dream has been to build something that he could be proud of: something that consisted of helping others.

Johnny and Ray doing stretching exercises together.
Photo ©Erpelding Photography

The idea and inspiration came from dear friend Deborah Brener and a therapeutic riding school was put in place sharing their vision for the future of the farm. Soon after, they attended the North American Riding For the Handicapped Assn. (NARHA) regional conference and Cal Net show at the L.A. Equestrian Center. When they observed the differently challenged children gaining special confidence that comes from sitting above the world on horseback, they knew in their hearts this was going to be the next chapter in their lives.

Ray and Cowgirl working trot overs.
Photo ©Erpelding Photography

Out of passion for helping others and commitment to making a positive difference in the world, the inspiration for Shadow Hills Riding Club Therapeutic Horsemanship was born. With the support of the Los Angeles Horse Council (www.losangeleshorsecouncil.org), Mikiel, a founding board member, resigned to give his full attention to SHRC.

“I’ve trained and ridden horses for the last 40 years, and I have a passion for helping children. This is the natural next step on the path,” says Higginson.

Ray and Cowgirl working serpentines.
Photo ©Erpelding Photography

Rockin W’s first therapeutic riding school student came to them six months ago. Ray’s parents chose Rockin W to board the horse they’d bought for their son, who is challenged with cerebral palsy. Although they didn’t know the ranch was in the early stages of starting a therapeutic riding school, they felt the empowerment and coordination involved with riding a horse would help their son. When Ray started his sessions, he needed two side walkers and a leader to assist him, but as time has gone on Ray has gotten stronger. Watching his progress has been one of the most rewarding experiences of Higginson, Mikiel and Brener’s lives. When the day came to take him off lead so he could ride on his own, everyone at Rockin W shared his parents’ tears of joy. Today Ray is riding by himself, on his own horse, working her on trail obstacles. “Ray has been a gift, we are so grateful and blessed to be working with Ray,” says Mikiel.

SHRC is a non-profit program that relies
on sponsorship and tax-deductible donations

The therapeutic program offers free evaluations and presently holds therapeutic riding lessons five days per week. One barn on the Rockin W Ranch property is dedicated to the therapeutic riding program. It contains 12 stalls for the therapeutic horses, a tack room and an office for the therapeutic program, with a sign that proudly says Shadow Hills Riding Club, which is now a 501(c)3 and is an NARHA accredited therapeutic riding center.

Johnny assisting Ray with balancing on his own.
Photo ©Erpelding Photography

But the team isn’t finished yet. The vision for the Shadow Hills Riding Club continues with future plans that include hippotherapy and office space where physical, speech and occupational therapy will be offered. A tack shop is also being set up offering used tack and clothing as well as some new retail products and feeds such as Succeed, where 100 percent of the profit from sales goes into SHRC.

Helping people Succeed

Today, the program is in motion and the sponsorship and volunteer program is in place. SHRC is always looking for dedicated volunteers who are willing to put in the time to learn correct horsemanship skills and are able to learn and work to be part of this amazing process.
SHRC also offers a program for men, women and young people who are in recovery from addictions to alcohol and drugs. SHRC is also proud to provide a Para-Equestrian program and promote that sport.

Ray, balancing while standing up in the saddle on his own.
Photo ©Erpelding Photography

Shadow Hills Riding Club is extremely fortunate and eternally grateful to The Brener Foundation, the Coto Foundation, Penguin foods and Pat Kinnaman for their generous donations helping to launch SHRC. The non-profit program relies on sponsorship and tax-deductible donations to help continue to teach children and adults how to ride while having a therapeutic advantage with their disability.

Ray and Cowgirl performing a 360 in the box.
Photo ©Erpelding Photography

Shadow Hills Riding Club’s open house will be held on June 5. Rockin W Ranch also offers a diverse choice in boarding accommodations, training and lessons for all disciplines and has a summer camp for both able-bodied and special needs children.

Please call 818-352-2166 for more information and to donate to the program, or visit www.ShadowHillsRidingClub.org.

Photo ©Erpelding Photography