Ahead With Horses, the non-profit organization that has been devoted to disabled, disadvantaged and special needs children for over 40 years, has a new address.
Located in Sun Valley since the early ’70s, Ahead with Horses has moved to nearby Shadow Hills. The new facility is located at 10157 Johanna Ave., Shadow Hills.
“It’s a new start for us,” said Joyce Davison, who is now president of Ahead with Horses and has been with the organization since 1983.
A proposed rent increase predicated the move, which was a daunting undertaking, said Davison.
“It took us over two months to move everything,” she said. During that time, services to the children were suspended.
“But now we’re ready to go,” Davison said.
Ahead with Horses was established in 1968 by Liz Helms. The organization provides therapy lessons to children on horseback. It serves more than 200 kids per week, more than 100,000 handicapped people since its beginning. Helms began working with children who were more severely handicapped and created individualized regimens to serve each individual’s needs.
KileyRose Sandager, 10, is one of the children who has been helped by Ahead With Horses.
“It has been a life changing experience,” said KileyRose’s mom Kathryn. “I never thought I’d see her involved with such an activity – relaxed, enjoying the environment.”
KileyRose was born at 25 weeks weighing just one pound, six ounces. Initially she had lung capacity limitations – which she has outgrown – but she is still physically limited. Though her mom said KileyRose wasn’t unhappy, it wasn’t until she was put on the back of a horse five years ago at Ahead With Horses that she “actually beamed.”
“KileyRose [uses] non-verbal sign language. She can’t verbalize, but she understands everything. On horseback she is able to do what her instructors ask,” said Kathryn. “But it’s tiring. After her first session she took a 2 ½ hour nap.”
Activities conducted in the program have shown to improve the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of disadvantaged children, touching on areas that other organizations might not affect.
“Socialization is sometimes put on a lower level of importance,” said Kathryn. “[But it’s] something truly [amazing] watching her try a new move or wave to a friend she hasn’t seen in a while.”
Kathryn added that she was surprised how the Ahead With Horses program has benefited the entire family.
“As a parent, to be able to sit with parents in similar situations [and] share experiences is worth its weight in gold,” she said. “I had no idea how much this would help us all.”
To celebrate the move, the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 29.
“It was wonderful,” said Davison. “Thirty-plus supporters showed up.”
The supporters included volunteers on whom Ahead With Horses relies. Thankfully, Ahead With Horses has an incentive for some who donate their time.
“We offer volunteer hours for high school and college students,” Davison said.
While the Shadow Hills location is a bit smaller – “more intimate” is how Davison describes it – even the horses seem to be happier.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “If they could smile, they would.”
Ahead With Horses is non-profit, and appreciates donations from the public.
More information about Ahead with Horses is available by calling (818) 767-6373.