Equestrian center in Saratoga Springs helps children with special needs

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah -- One equestrian center in Saratoga Springs is helping kids with disabilities learn to ride and vault horses.

Vaulting is most commonly described as gymnastics on horses.

“We’ve always wanted to have a group going for disabled kids and with special needs,” Horse Trainer Kim Taylor said.

Learning to stand while riding, Taylor said you don’t have to be good with horses. They’re teaching kids with disabilities to do this too.

“The great thing about vaulting is the child doesn’t have to control the horse,” Taylor said.

The instructor holds the lead rope as the horse and rider go around the corral. Last week, one of their autistic students, Tyler, started standing and dancing while on his horse.

“He took off his boots and he’s kneeling on her, and the next thing I know he’s standing up and dancing. He’s turning around, clapping his hands,” Angels Landing Founder Angela Gewondjan said.

“You can just see his grin,” Tyler’s Dad, Bruce Pritchett, said.

Watching Tyler ride was scary at first, but as the years have passed, Pritchett said he realized what Tyler’s teacher—Angela—has done for his son.

“I kind of view Angela as a miracle worker,” Pritchett said. “She can get to Tyler in a way even us parents can’t get through to him.”

Other parents in the program agree. Rosie’s mom, Camille Farias, says traditional therapy wasn’t working for her daughter, but working with the horses every week has helped her physical development.

“Her strength has improved, her balance has improved, her core strength has improved and her fine motor skills have improved as well through the exercises Angela has done with her,” Farias said.

Working with horses and helping these kids is what Gewondjan said it’s all about.

“It’s seeing their lives change and the difference, and it just gives me goosebumps; it’s magical actually,” Gewondjan said.

Gewondjan said they will start vaulting with kids with disabilities this June, and you can follow them on Instagram at angels_landing_foundation2017.