BY MEREDITH KNIGHT
There were many things Mandy Cleveland didn’t expect when she began Stable Strides Farm in 2001. She didn’t expect to see some of her riders with disabilities begin careers in the local horse industry. She didn’t expect to see others return to volunteer in the program. Yet, the past 20 years have brought those blessings — and so many more.
The program Mandy began in 2001 with four riders and two horses now accommodates more than 70 riders — as young as two and as old as their 60s — with a range of physical and cognitive disabilities riding 18 professionally trained, retired show horses. Stable Strides Farm riders compete in a dozen or more horse shows each year across Texas, Ohio, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Illinois.
“When you’re paired with the right horse, you can do anything,” Mandy said. “We have one rider who’s in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down. She told me recently, ‘When I’m in the chair, I have two bad legs. When I’m on the horse, I have four good ones.’”
Mandy has also watched the parents of younger riders form a strong support network. “They chat while their kids are riding and swap resources,” she said. “It means a lot for them to be able to talk with someone who understands what they’re going through. Our riders are quite social, too, chatting with each other over social media and getting together outside of
As the program has grown, Mandy has hired four additional riding instructors certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH). She has welcomed volunteers who assist with lessons and mentored more than a dozen certified instructors. “Several of them have relocated and begun their own therapeutic riding program, another blessing I didn’t anticipate,” Mandy said.
Stable Strides Farm offers therapeutic riding lessons and opportunities for riders to compete in local and national horse shows. In 2019, the farm had two riders selected to compete in the World Special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, bringing home three gold medals and a bronze. All four riders representing Texas at the National Special Olympics Equestrian Games 2022 in Orlando, Florida will be from Stable Strides Farm.
As a 501(c)(3), Stable Strides Farm accepts tax-deductible monetary and in-kind donations. The group is always looking for volunteers. Its 20th anniversary gala fundraiser, Strides Forward Gala, is scheduled for December 5 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Lucky Spur Ranch Retreat. Buy your tickets at StableStridesFarm.org. “Maybe you know a rider who would benefit from the program,” Mandy said. “Riding is a sport for life with benefits for everyone. Horses don’t discriminate or judge. They just love our riders.”
4400 Withers Avenue
Flower Mound, Texas 75028