by Hilary Felix

           Lately I’ve been thinking about how there is no stopping us when we put our minds to something. Last week Dean, Anthony and I took a tour of two non-profits whose missions intersect with ours. We believe that nature should be accessible to all and this is why we’ve increased our focus on people with special needs in the community. The two nonprofits we visited, TRAK and TROT, are therapeutic ranches in Tucson so it was a blast to spend a day with them. TRAK focuses on connecting farm animals to the special needs community and hosts a fabulous array of programs, and TROT specializes in therapeutic riding and horses. If you are ever lacking faith in the good side of humanity, go to one of these places.

                One of the best, most helpful mindsets we can have towards the special needs community and really towards everyone in general I’m learning is a belief in capabilities. Sometimes our minds make assumptions about what people can or can’t do, and we make hasty judgements. We limit others and ourselves the moment we say something can’t be done. “That person is blind/autistic/in a wheelchair, so they couldn’t possibly do that,” we decide before we even ask.

                But at TRAK and TROT, and here at the Santa Fe Ranch, it’s about looking at what IS possible, and once you step into this perspective it’s really amazing what you can see. If you think a person using a wheelchair for all their mobility can’t ride a 1000 pound horse, wait until you see TROT’s mounting area which includes an electronic lift to assist these riders from their wheelchair to the horse’s back. Once mounted, the accommodations continue. Whatever guidance is needed for the learning to take place is provided, and the person accesses that majestic experience of moving through space on a horse.

                It doesn’t stop there. TROT has a round pen that has been designed with wheelchair users in mind so that from a paved spot inside the pen the person in a wheelchair can work the horse by using pressure and cues.  Imagine lacking the control over one’s own body to stand or walk but then bringing a galloping horse’s movement to a full stop with the carefully timed raising of one’s hand. And while the design of the round pen probably took some time to plan, and the money and resources needed to be raised, something tells me the biggest and most important first victory was the moment someone believed. That person let go of assumptions of what couldn’t be done, and just asked themselves “how?” and then there was nowhere to go but forward.

                I’ve had the extreme benefit of working with similarly positive minded people in the schools and now here at the ranch and have been witness to some undreamed of successes that began when folks asked these questions. It’s about seeing human potential and not closing each other off. Witnessing the successes of these other two sites, hearing the differences they are making in people’s lives, and sharing our ideas with one another is a sure fire way to increase our effectiveness and reach.

                I’ll end by sharing a response I got from Brittany Batte of TRAK ranch which epitomizes what the experience of this day and these people was like. In response to thanking her for having us, she wrote back “Thank YOU for coming all the way out to see us. We are more than willing to share our successes and failures with you. The more organizations out there helping adults and kids, the better!”

                And with that kind of attitude, is there anything we can’t do?


To learn more about these organizations go to: