Ivy Hill Therapeutic Equestrian Center Serving all individuals with unique abilities and health needs


Our son, Sean was born with developmental delays back in 1996. He didn’t crawl until he was 12 months old, walk until he was 19 months old, and really talk until after he was two years old.  We spent many hours at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia watching doctors perform neurological tests, genetic tests, MRIs and blood tests.  Sean was poked and prodded so many times in the first three years of his life but nothing ever came back conclusive.  He was put in the general category of delayed.  We immediately began speech, physical therapy, and occupational therapy to try and help him reach his childhood milestones.  Sean was a happy toddler but he was also very shy and would stand off to the side to observe others until he was sure of them.  When he was 2 ½ years old we were able to immerse him in an inclusive preschool.  Despite his limitations in the beginning of his life, we wanted him to be treated like everyone else.  Sean was with this program until he was 6 years old.  He was put into a developmental kindergarten class but we made sure he also attended a regular curriculum class so that he wouldn’t fall further behind.  From the get-go Sean had an amazing work ethic.  He would go to his school therapies with a smile and never complain.  We also had him go to private therapists.  His speech and low muscle tone hindered his social interactions the most.  Sometimes his peers couldn’t understand what he was saying and it was too hard for Sean to keep up with his friends running and playing sports. 

Around the age of 9 one of our neighbors who also had a child with disabilities mentioned a place where kids like ours can learn to horseback ride as a therapy.  So in second grade we took Sean to Ivy Hill Therapeutic Equestrians to have him evaluated.  Sean was so nervous at first to sit up on Rambo and his lack of balance made him very unsteady.  His instructor, Misty was very patient and guided him around the ring making him stretch and perform exercises without him even realizing he was working.  Sean was hooked.  He was eager to go back the following week to learn more. Unfortunately, Ivy Hill had to leave the barn they were leasing so Sean had to stop riding for about 6 months.  He was so happy when Ivy Hill found a new place to rent close by and lessons began once again.  After a lot of training, Sean went to his first Special Olympics at Penn State in June 2006.  Ivy Hill had only 5 riders at the time and Sean was the only boy.  Sean fell in love with competing.  He didn’t care that his friends were playing soccer or baseball; he found his home with the horses.  As a parent it was so comforting to see our shy little boy come out of his shell and gain self-confidence.

The instructors at Ivy Hill are all amazing, patient, and hardworking individuals.  They treat our children with respect and teach them to push themselves to reach their goals.  Sean has ridden so many different horses over the years (Rambo, Skip, Spot, Blue, Gracie, April, John, Charlie, Je t’aime and many, many more) which has help him improve both mentally and physically by leaps and bounds.  Most importantly, horseback riding has improved his memory and processing skills.  A rider has to learn to plan ahead and work with the horse together.  They become a team. Ivy Hill also was the place where Sean first learned the heartbreak of losing a pet - first Spot, then Charlie, and next his favorite, Je t’aime who had become such an important part of Sean’s life. 

Looking back at our pictures, one sees a boy who couldn’t sit up straight on the horse and steer for himself, but now fast forward 8 years, one sees a young man sitting tall in the saddle with a huge smile on his face while holding all his blue ribbons.  There is just no way to thank Megan and Janna, his two amazing instructors enough.  It is so rewarding to now see Sean proudly on top of a horse, trotting and cantering over obstacles, and jumping over low fences (I must admit I still hold my breath until it’s over).  Ivy Hill and their wonderful instructors have helped turn our quiet, shy, uncoordinated young boy into a confident, smart, amazing rider who has qualified to ride in the handicapped division of the Devon Horse Show four times and in 2010 riding Charlie was able to win Grand Champion Reserve.  Sean rides twice a week and in 2013 Ivy Hill hired him to be an afternoon feeder and barn worker.  Sean absolutely loves it all.  He is the happiest when he is at the barn.  To us it’s like Ivy Hill and Sean grew up together.  They both started out small but rapidly grew into an amazing entity.  The new permanent home of Ivy Hill is beyond beautiful and the staff now has over 160 riders to help them reach their goals.  In the fall of 2015, Sean will take all his wonderful memories of Ivy Hill and start his next chapter of his life at college where he hopes to continue to ride horses and major in biology.  Sean definitely has taught us that maybe starting out slow and doing things at your own pace is not such a bad thing as long as you get to where you want to be.  Thank you, Ivy Hill for being there when we needed you the most.  We will forever be grateful for all your hard work helping Sean realize his potential and reach for his dreams.

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