Found on a quiet road in Upton, Kentucky is a therapeutic center that provides assistance to children and adults with physical and mental handicaps, but unlike other centers this one uses horses for therapy.
For centuries, people have found the horse beneficial to the human race, using them for transportation, work and pleasure. But this farm in Upton, called Horses & Hearts Therapeutic Riding Center, uses the animals to assist individuals with disabilities through equine therapy.
The mission of Horses & Hearts is to provide individualized equine related therapeutic activities to people with physical, social and emotional disabilities.
The center enriches the lives of its clients in a caring, safe and challenging environment that will enable them to reach their highest potential.
Jamie and John Jankowicz originally started the center as Tally Oak stables and offered riding lessons to adults and children but have found Jamie’s ability to help disabled clients very rewarding.
“I do this because of the kids and just seeing the smiles on their faces is worth every minute,” said Jankowicz.
“One thing the horse does is help strengthen the trunk muscles in a child with weak muscles,” added Jankowicz. “The heat from the horse helps also. Many of the lessons learned from the back of a horse are transferred to noticeable improvements in the student’s daily activities”
Some of the disabilities of students that commonly benefit from equine facilitated therapy and activities are: Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome and Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Spina Bifida, emotional and learning disabilities, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and Attention Deficit Disorder.
The Horses & Hearts equine center assists between 35 to 40 children and adults a week.
Each student is offered an individually designed learning opportunity that is structured to help that student in a variety of areas.
The patients come to the center through referrals from a variety of ways including; other parents, special education teachers, licensed therapists and doctors.
“For many of our students the simple act of riding a horse has had a significant effect and helped to improve the patients physical condition, increase coordination and balance, and helped to instill confidence and self esteem,” said Jankowicz.
Beverly Owen tells of her daughter’s accomplishments after working with the horses at the center.
“Besides having fun riding, Whitney has improved her balance, posture, coordination and muscle tone,” said Owen. “Jamie has given her confidence. I am amazed at every lesson at how patient Jamie is with beginning riders.”
The center is completely funded through donations and grants and patient billing and relies heavily on yearly fundraisers to help with the therapeutic cost
The mission of the center seems to strike a chord in the hearts of kindly people.
Recently, the Thompsons of Mt. Sherman hosted a fund-raising trail ride on their 1500-acre farm.
In a few days, well-known Glendale restaurateur, Tony York, owner and head chef of The Depot, will offer an exquisite “culinary presentation” at a dinner held at the program’s headquarters at Talley Oak Stables in Upton.
“This is really a highlight of our year,” said Jankowicz. “The annual Equestrian Ball is an important source of funds for the program, typically raising at least a few thousand dollars per event. We all have such a great time, and, of course, Tony York’s food is always outstanding.”
There will also be an auction to lend excitement and a little friendly competition to the evening.
“We have some faithful businesses and supporters we always count on to donate items for our auction,” explains Jankowicz, “but we want everyone to know that anyone can donate.”
The items don’t have to be new. “One of our stable moms donated a collection of newer home decorating books she had finished reading,” explained Jankowicz. “Anything anyone might have value for is welcome as a donation. It costs a lot to keep Horses & Hearts going, and every penny we raise counts.”
Tickets are $50 per person for the October 23rd Autumn Equestrian Ball and can be ordered by calling Jankowicz at (270) 766-2485.