Fresh air, rolling pastures, a quaint little barn full of friendly, furry faces — Hoofbeats Academy provides therapy not only to its students, but to anyone who visits this idyllic little ranch out in Manor, TX. Meshelle Rives has been providing a therapeutic setting for students of various intellectual and physical disabilities since 2005. Her passion for her work is evident within moments of meeting her. Her program is described as an “adaptive horsemanship and therapeutic riding program.” This essentially means that she is able to provide a healing and enriching environment for all types of people, children and adults, who gain confidence in themselves as they learn to groom, lead, ride, and enjoy the company of Sunny and Lily the horses, Daisy Scout “the unstoppable show pony,” and Leon, the lovable donkey.
Her students enjoy personalized lessons that help them to gain vital social, physical, and intellectual skills in a friendly and nurturing environment. Meshelle’s methods, with the help of some trusty volunteers, help students to overcome barriers that would seem unlikely — a nonverbal boy can correctly identify a donkey versus a pony and know them by name, a young woman with Down syndrome can successfully complete a challenging trot in a horse show, and so on. Meshelle is incredibly proud of her students, many of whom have been going to Hoofbeats for years, and most importantly her students have learned to be proud of themselves.
Working at Hoofbeats has been a rewarding experience in ways I did not expect. I love driving out to the country and spending time on the ranch. I love assisting the students and taking some positivity out of each lesson. I also really enjoy spending time with the animals, of course. I entered Hoofbeats having zero experience working with horses — growing up in rural New England, you would think I’d have ridden once or twice in my life, but my only experiences have been gawking out the window at these giant but graceful creatures. Working at Hoofbeats has been wonderful for not only pushing me out of my comfort zone of domestic animal welfare, but allowing me to visually see the beauty of a student who can’t look most people in the eye having a tender moment getting nuzzles from a horse.
Volunteering at Hoofbeats Academy has given me so much, and since I’ve only been there for a few months, I’m very excited to see what else the program can show me. The program is small but has dreams for big growth — more students, more volunteers, and more outside attention are hopefully in its future, and deservedly so. I encourage anybody with interest to reach out to Meshelle, who will more than gladly speak about her personal “Equibloom Method” of equine therapy and how Hoofbeats is changing lives. You can learn more at www.hoofbeatsacademy.com, instagram @hoofbeatsacademy (look for pictures of the Daisy’s saddle pad autographed by Willie Nelson!).