Carousel Ranch Miracles
September, 2006 - Issue #23
With all the admiration of superheroes lately, Santa Clarita has a hero of its own which has been marveling crowds for years. It leaps over the word "impossible" with a single bound, creating a new brand of superhero whose identity is no secret. It's Carousel Ranch, a therapeutic horseback riding organization created for children with disabilities.

Words like "amazing" and "miraculous" are commonly used to describe the group, which moved to an expansive 10-acre facility in Agua Dulce last year. But to create a comprehensive list of all of its miracle stories would require some of the same magic the ranch uses to overcome obstacles with its students.

"In the first six months at Carousel Ranch I thought, 'Wow! I'm beginning to see a difference in Shaleigh,'" said Ronda Rudy, the mother of a six-year-old with cerebral palsy who has been riding for about three years. "Her head control, her neck control, her balancing. I'm amazed how well she can sit on the floor now. The riding did that for her."

Five years of riding at the ranch has reaped some real benefits for the family of Courtney Golin, a 12-year-old who suffers from a seizure disorder, cardiomyopathy and mental retardation. "Before Courtney started riding once a week, she was falling down 20 to 30 times a day," said Debbie, her mother. "Now she's hiked with us at three or four thousand feet."

Doctors and therapists had little hope for Courtney's progress five years ago. A neurologist told Debbie that pursuing alternative therapies was "a waste of time."

"When I went to Carousel Ranch I was not real optimistic," said Debbie. "We've seen tremendous strides in Courtney. It's been wonderful."

Many parents share that same level of surprise by the success of the program.

"He's done some incredible things," said Rick Delia of his son, Cody, 8. "I'm convinced that Carousel Ranch is what's helped him to walk."

Cody began riding at 10 months old and was crawling after one year of therapy and walking after two years.

When Dr. Kent Robbins, who practices medical genetics, discovered Carousel Ranch, he did not think of the far-reaching potential to treat his son, Brendon, now 5, who suffers from mental retardation and physical delays.

"Little did I know the impact it would have on kids of all disabilities," he said. "It doesn't always make sense to the lay person. It's one of those unique situations."

In Brendon's first few months, he was able to climb stairs. In the first year he could walk independently.

The stunts the children do at Carousel Ranch resemble gymnastic moves, which, at first glance, seems to only treat their limbs and torsos. But stories from parents repeatedly emphasize tremendous growth in many more aspects.

"My son started talking after he started riding," said Linda Richmond, of her 5-year-old, Cameron.

Besides physical therapies, Carousel Ranch staffers ask questions, talk to the riders about the horses, teach them left from right and, at times, even do flashcards with them. This greatly enhances their speech capabilities.

Before 8-year-old Taiya Lemke of Stevenson Ranch began riding five years ago, her speech was unintelligible.

"She's become very outspoken," said her mother, Shawna Lemke. "She feels very accomplished."

When Shaleigh began riding, she only said the word "hi." Now she answers questions and is outgoing with the staff.

"Getting the kids outside with people and horses really opens them up," said Ronda.

One aspect that makes horseback therapy different from physical or occupational therapy is the sheer recreation the kids' experience.

After some time in the program, there are students who become more serious about the experience. Grooming the horses becomes an important part of the process.

"Danny's connected with the fact that it's a real possibility that he could own his own horse someday, to be able to take care of it," said Deane Barton, whose 13-year-old son has autism.

Carousel Ranch has employed long-time student, Dana Sachs, 19. She makes phone calls to parents and helps with mailings in the office. She was born without arms, and has one leg, but has learned to ride independently.

"I think it's a great program for disabled students," says Sachs. "For me, it gives me a chance to get out of my chair. It gives me a walking feeling, which I never get."

Carousel Ranch co-founder Denise Tomey believes the program is powerful and fun for the students.

"It's very, very effective," she said. "It's occupational therapy on the back of a horse. They put a ring on a pole or throw a ball through a hoop. Kids don't see it as therapy."

Carousel Ranch is hosting their annual fundraiser, Heart of the West, on August 26. The event features a gourmet Western dinner, a live and silent auction and an opportunity to see Carousel Ranch miracles for yourself - the kids will demonstrate their equestrian skills for guests. Tickets, sponsorships and volunteer opportunities are still available.

For more information on Carousel Ranch or Heart of the West, visit their website at or call 268-8010.


A Special Thank You to
Heart of the West Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor
Mission Valley Bank

Platinum Sponsor
Newhall Land/Lennar Homes

Valet Sponsor
Valencia Acura

Event Sponsors
The Blomgren Family
Cooney Foods
Vincent Hill Station
Andy Gump

Silver Saddle Sponsors
G/G Industries
Lexus of Valencia

Marshall Sponsors
Sand Canyon Plaza, LLC
Sandy & Craig - RE/MAX
Santa Clarita Soccer Center
Satellite Super Stores & The Gallegos Family
Sunshine Child Care/Legacy Academy

Entertainment Sponsor
Inside SCV Magazine

Sheriff Sponsor
Chesapeake Insurance
Newhall Coffee Roasting
Total Financial Solutions

Trail Boss Sponsor
HR Textron
Kaiser Permanente

Buckaroo Sponsor
American Family Funding
Atkins Environmental H.E.L.P.
Carly May Gibbs
The Gore Family

Media Sponsors
Inside SCV Magazine
KHTS AM 1220
SCV Living Magazine
The Signal
Thank You to the Following Advertisers for their Generosity to Carousel Ranch's Heart of the West

Live Auction Donors
Dr. Irani/Valencia Dental Arts
Robinson Ranch
RSVP - The Catering Company
Canyon Kennels
Wilshire Home Entertainment
Alpine Shutters & Window Fashions
SoCal Sports
SCV Moulding & Design Center
Action Window & Door
Sunshine Day Care/Legacy Private Academy
Keyes Lexus of Valencia
The Paseo Financial Group

Silent Auction Donors
Just Us Girls
The Men's Room
Dream Dinners
Philly's Best
Bailey Blu
Charmaine's Florist
Inspirational Home & Garden
Dress'r Drawers
Impressions Jewelry
Little School of Music
Pilates Pros
Consigner Designer
Canyon Theatre Guild
It Figures! of Valencia
Exclusive Sedan
Suburban Chateau
Victorian Tea Time
Cruz's Bridal
Jill's Cake Creations
Wolf Creek
Cottage on Walnut
Cruz's Bridal
Club Z!
Senna Cosmetics
Backside Boardshop
Spa Villa Salon & Spa
SCV Pools
Starpups Depot
Cobblestone Cottage
Claire's Flowers
Wine 661
Suburban Chateau
Pilates Tech
Michele Pastry Cafe
Camera Shy Photography by Lisa Ahrens
Saugus Swapmeet
La Via Bella
Valley Breeze Fans
Ambience Furniture
DeeDee Cooper Designs
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