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Enough to Make A Horse Laugh

(Special to the Independent News)

 JNH program director Bonnie Grueninger  with Braveheart at the Jamestown  stables.

JNH program director Bonnie Grueninger with Braveheart at the Jamestown stables.

There’s an old Texas saying, “If ya’ done it, it ain’t braggin.” When seven-year-old Josh successfully guided his horse over the summit of the ‘mountain’ in the Jamestown New Horizons (JNH) indoor riding arena, he squealed, “I did it!” Using both intellectual and physical skills, Josh had mastered this challenge by directing the horse’s movements, by shifting his weight, and by balancing carefully. The fact that three adult volunteers had secured Josh’s safety throughout the effort was beside the point. It was his triumph alone.

Stories like Josh’s happen every day at JNH, a not-for-profit organization whose sole purpose is to help improve the health and quality of life for children with disabilities. JNH has been providing therapeutic riding for children with disabilities for 29 years

At JNH, the horses serve as the core to this very special horseback riding program. Braveheart, Bwana Chui, Happy, Jubilee, Merrywood, Saxon, Sophie and Trystan are quite good at relieving fears and creating smiles and laughter. They give the child something to talk about, to dream about. Although they vary in age, size, color and conformation, they all possess a certain similar characteristic which enables them to participate in the JNH program – they are tolerant to a fault.

The horses at Jamestown New Horizons are guaranteed a home for life, which is, indeed, enough to make a horse laugh. They receive careful handling coupled with appropriate fitting, well-made tack and special pads to protect their backs. They go out on pasture every day of the year (except when there is ice). They come in to clean, well-bedded, well-ventilated stalls at night. They are fed good quality hay and grain. They have excellent veterinarian and farrier care. They are treated with the sensitivity and grace they so richly deserve.

The JNH riders, who range in age from toddlers to teenagers, are taught to work as partners with their mounts. They learn to be considerate riders and come to understand the nature of the horse. Through this understanding and caring, the riders build a positive self-image, learn responsibility and develop self-confidence and courage.

According to the JNH program director, Bonnie Grueninger, “From the moment the children arrive, one of our main goals is to help them become independent. Children with disabilities often have so much done for them; we find ways to help them do not only for themselves, but for others, too. That’s how you build self-esteem.”

The main fundraiser for JNH is its Swing Fore the Kids golf tournament, held in September. It has a 501(c)(3) federal tax status – all donations are tax deductible – and depends upon donations from individuals, civic organizations and foundations.

Three 12-week therapeutic riding sessions are provided at Jamestown New Horizons each year. The first session runs from March 4 through May 22. For more information, parents may visit the JNH website at to download registration forms or send e-mail to or call 314-741-5816.

Anyone interested in serving as a volunteer horse leader or side-walker may register for adult volunteer training classes. The next set of classes will be held on Feb. 8, 15 and 22 from 1-4 p.m. JHN is located one-half mile north of the Jamestown Mall at 15350 Old Jamestown Road.


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