I am Judy Hendon, Director of Equessense.
I have experience working with individuals with a wide variety of special needs since 1975. My educational background includes a Summa Cum Laud B.A. in Social Work/Sociology with an emphasis on counseling and methods of intervention. I also earned a Summa Cum Laud Master’s of Education in Special Education with an endorsement in behavior disorders and autism. My educational accomplishments are the direct result of what began as an apparent tragedy. In 1974 I had a son, Jeremiah Daniel, who was diagnosed with profound brain damage and wasn’t expected to walk, talk, learn or even sit up unless he was strapped in a wheel chair. The attending medical community discarded my son initially because his condition seemed “hopeless” and he was not expected to live more than a few years. I refused to accept that prognosis and launched an all-consuming search for alternative models of intervention. It was these life-altering events that lead me to the work I am doing now. Among other activities and therapies, the horses helped Jeremy develop balance, strength, stamina, coordination, right-left symmetry, reflexes, self-confidence and endless other benefits. Now he is a functional single-parent who lives independently, works full time and supports himself and his family without social-service assistance of any kind. Obviously, I believe in miracles
In 1990 I allowed a gravely emotionally disturbed pre-adolescent girl to mount one of my horses. This little girl’s emotional disturbance was so severe that she had a full-time care-giver and required home-bound educational services because she was a danger to herself and others. Against the serious misgiving of her care taker, I agreed to give her a try in the saddle. (With certain contingencies). Much to the surprise of everyone present, we witnessed a transformation take place before our eyes. The child’s whole demeanor changed from frenzied to calm, from defiant to compliant. My horses and I began to spend time with this young woman for whom multiple models of intervention had failed. Within a year she was able to attend public school at a self-contained campus. The following year she returned to her home campus with a few special education classes. I discovered, quite by accident that horses make wonderful therapists that can offer a specific, healing solution to virtually any special need a rider might have. To learn more about therapeutic horsemanship, I apprenticed for three years at the Saddle Light Equestrian-therapy Center from 1990-1993. In 1994 I began to use my own horses to operate a therapeutic riding program from my home. Since then I have been humbled and blessed to have been a part of so many life-changing experiences that I would never be able to describe them all.
Experiential riding has been widely recognized as a beneficial method of therapy for people with physical, mental, emotional, developmental or sensory differences. A structured horseback riding program enables participants to gain skills and character qualities in many different areas. Psychologically it builds confidence and improves self-definition. Socially it develops communication and interaction. It teaches discipline, problem -solving, self-control and a host of other valuable life skills. Bonding with horses and other riders cultivates compassion and empathy. Horse and equipment-care teaches responsibility and ownership. These positive character traits assimilate into participants’ character and benefit them in other arenas as well.
Growing up in a military family I always wanted a horse but couldn’t get one because of the constant relocation. I was obsessed with horses. Every new post in which we established residence the first thing I found was the stable. Just to be around the objects of my obsession I offered to clean stalls, groom horses, clean saddles and work the horses for their owners. It never occurred to me that people might be willing to pay for those services. Now I know that God put that equine love in my heart because he had a plan for me: A plan that would utilize these noble creatures to bring healing, joy and positive development to some of his most precious children.
Our horses are gentle and sensitive. The serene country atmosphere is very therapeutic. The healing potential of this work is beyond limits.