By: Sharah Denton
For Leslie Jacobs, seeing children with developmental disabilities reach their goals and reach milestones in therapy is what she is passionate about.
Since 1995, Leslie has taught able riders and worked in Raleigh, North Carolina with Special Olympics World Games where she was responsible for two riders and their horses. Her work with special needs children is credited with many opportunities where she is able to truly use her love of horses and children to make a positive impact. Leslie is the Founder & Director of Jacobs’ Ladder Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc.
“Seeing the accomplishments of our riders and their smiles is what I love most. We make them (children) proud of what they have done.” While at the therapeutic grounds, Leslie and her team were assisting students from Berrien County Schools on their various learning stations. “We have a spelling station where the students can formulate words. We have stations where students can strengthen their depth perception and core muscles. We take things they need in their life skills and make it fun, says Leslie.
Jacobs’ Ladder’s mission is to “provide equine related activities to individuals with special needs. Children as young as 3 years old may participate, as well as adults who desire to strengthen their physical bodies, build their self-esteem, gain a sense of independence, learn new skills & make new friends.”
Currently, nine schools utilize the therapeutic facilities which include time during the week, after school and Saturdays. Leslie still finds time to attend church and spend time with her family despite the busy schedule. The horses that Leslie has are seasoned in age and experienced and go through an initial assessment to see how well they respond to certain behaviors. For Leslie, the horses become a part of her family and it is easy to love each one with their own personality.
Leslie says that about 70 children come for therapeutic riding on a weekly basis and she has had the pleasure of seeing many of those children accomplish their goals and grow in age and development.
The goals of the organization are: To reach members of our community who were previously unable to consider riding due to physical or mental disabilities, who are interested in furthering their knowledge of horses and are interested in learning to ride horses in a safe, non-stressful environment; To provide an outlet for the recreational and developmental needs of school-age children and adults; To promote an “I can do it!” attitude for those who have previously been limited in their abilities; To offer, for those who are interested, the opportunity to compete in Special Olympics Horse Shows and other events for challenged riders.
To learn more about the organization visit: jacobsladderriding.com.
Photo: Wayne Wilson is pictured riding on Jack, with instructor, Kristen Novack.