Riding instructor Kelsey Kiel of Farmington shows Charley Yohman, 6, how a bridle, reigns and bit are used to lead a horse at Lone Pine Acres in Hopwood Nov. 17. Yoman’s mother, Lauren Yohman, is pictured at rear (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)
By Alyssa Choiniere
HOPWOOD, Pa. — Jessica Scott is transforming her Hopwood ranch into an equestrian therapeutic center for those with physical disabilities and emotional needs that can be healed, in part, by horses.
Her personal experiences started her on the path toward opening Lone Pine Acres. She has a heart for veterans that began with her grandmother, who served in the Women’s Army Corps. Her work with children with autism as principal of Marshall Elementary School nurtured her desire to expand their therapeutic opportunities locally. And her own struggles with anxiety, combined with an upbringing around horses, taught her about their therapeutic effects.
“With all the emotional needs in Fayette County, there’s nowhere people can go to just breathe,” she said.
Scott will work with a therapist and a therapeutic riding instructor to fill a void she witnessed locally. The ranch will be open to clients including people with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, spina bifida, developmental delays, autism, visual and hearing impairments, at-risk youth and wounded and disabled veterans. Services will include certified equine-assisted personal development and psychotherapy (EAGALA) and AHA Hippotherapy, or adaptive riding.
- IF YOU WANT TO HELP: Scott said she is looking for donations including tack supplies, barrels and jumping equipment, sensory equipment for those with autism, helmets and therapeutic riding equipment. For more information or to donate, contact Scott at [email protected] or call 724-880-8875.
For those with physical disabilities, horseback riding can build strength, balance and flexibility, she said. For those with mental health needs and post-traumatic stress, the connection with horses can lead to healing, she said.
“Horses are unique as a part of therapy since they are prey animals, which means that there are profound parallels between the brain functioning of horses and that of humans who have experienced trauma, and may live in a state of alarm,” Scott wrote in her business plan. “Thus, horses can force us to be in the present moment with them, and offer immediate observable and experiential feedback based on one’s interaction with them.”
She envisions Lone Pine Acres as a place where anyone can unplug from the chaos of modern life and relax on the open land in a hammock, fish in a pond and care for the horses, even if they are not interested in horseback riding.
Scott started the nonprofit in January after buying the ranch with her husband. She plans to start an annual membership program, and she has a three-year plan to expand the offerings. Her grand opening is planned for April 2022, but she will be open before that date, she said.
“Hope” will be the main horse for riding lessons, while those who want to be around horses without riding can care for “Duke,” her older, docile horse. “Oliver,” a 7-month-old donkey, has been a huge draw already for seniors and children.
“I have older people that say, ‘Can I come down and see the donkey?” Scott said.
Kelsey Kiel of Farmington, who owns Hope, will be the main instructor for the ranch.
“What she’s doing has been my dream for years,” Kiel said of Scott.
She said she is training as a physical therapy assistant, grew up horseback riding and has studied equine therapy. She said the opportunity will combine her “passion for horses and passion for people.”
“Horses are definitely healers,” she said.
Alyssa Choiniere is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard. Readers may email her at [email protected]. Helping the Helpers is a cooperative effort between the Uniontown Herald-Standard and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
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