I was one of those little girls who always wanted a pony. I told my dad that we could fit one in the garage. Now history repeats itself – my daughter wants a horse too! Horses seem to have the power to make people smile. Today’s organization uses the magic of horses to help put smiles on the faces of children and veterans.
Majestic Hills Ranch (MHR) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides reputable, safe, and enjoyable therapeutic riding to children and young adults with special needs, and rehabilitative services to injured Veterans.
Jackie, the granddaughter of the Foundation’s Chair Kim Howard, was born with Recurrent Respiratory Papillomas – a disease of the airway. Her feisty spirit kept her going even though her life expectancy was expected to be short. When Jackie was 6 years old, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and had an operation to remove the lower right lobe of her lung. She then underwent various chemotherapy treatments which disabled her greatly. Jackie ached all over and could no longer walk or lift her legs. This was when Kim Howard thought of therapeutic horse riding to loosen Jackie’s muscles. Once she was placed on the horse, she was again smiling, and even seemed to forget the pain and her disability while riding. In just about four weeks Jackie was not only walking, giggling, dancing, and roller skating down the street, she was riding every day and gaining more confidence and strength than ever! Jackie lived to 19 years of age before lung cancer took her life, but the animals helped her keep her strength and spirits up.
After her experience seeing all the physical, emotional and social benefits of riding therapy, Kim Howard decided to create the same advantage for other children who face difficult challenges. In 1997, Majestic Hills Ranch, 106 acres of beautiful rolling hills located in scenic Dakota County, Minnesota was purchased. In 1998, a Board was formed, and in 1999, MHR gained was granted a 501(c)(3) status.
Their mission of the children’s program at MHR is to provide children and young adults with special needs the opportunity to achieve a sense of freedom, accomplishment, and self-esteem while giving their families hope. They help children and young adults with physical and emotional challenges, chronic illness, or symptoms of abuse or neglect, enjoy their lives to the greatest degree possible.
Throughout the years, the ranch has been able to expand from the original, single 12-stall stable to what it is now with the generous support of various foundations, companies, and individuals. It has become a fenced-in, outdoor riding arena with a wheelchair ramp and seating for parents and siblings, all adjacent to the parking lot. There is also a picnic area, bonfire pit, a hay wagon that accommodates wheelchairs, and a small petting zoo.
The stories of the children who have been through the program at MHR are amazing! Children with Cerebral Palsy who came to the ranch with bodies so twisted that they need to be tied into their wheelchairs. At the end on one 25 week long season, their bodies become so straight and strong that many are able to learn how to walk. Autistic children who are mute have started talking and learned social skills.
In 2010, MHR established a “Heroes on Horseback” program. They have made the commitment to bring the benefits of equine therapy to our Veterans who have sacrificed so much. It is a small way of helping repay them for all they have given and all they have lost. The goal of the Heroes on Horseback program is to engage Armed Forces Veterans and their families in a variety of recreational and therapeutic equestrian activities designed to achieve measureable behavioral, cognitive, physical, psychological, and communication goals.
In the future, Majestic Hills Ranch wishes to have an indoor arena that would enable them to provide service year-round and not be controlled by Minnesota’s inclement weather.
Volunteers are important to MHR. They use approximately 200 volunteers each year to work with the children and Veteran’s. These volunteers commit approximately four hours per week. There are opportunities for individuals with and without horse handling experience. There are also opportunities for groups to come out and do ranch chores, paint, and work in the gardens. MHR also needs volunteers to help with events that are held at the ranch.