St. Augustine Woman's Journal - Educational Resource to the Women of St. Johns County Since 2009

By Ric Lehman
Executive Director, Haven Horse Ranch 

In an Instant


June 1, 2017 | View PDF

I've spent most of my adult life working with people with Special Needs. You see, I founded and run Haven Horse Ranch. We work with people with Autism, MS, MD, Cerebral Palsy, Down's Syndrome, Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord injuries, Learning Disabilities, PTSD, At Risk and so much more. Over the last 8 to 10 years we've provided over 30,000 sessions of Equine Assisted Therapy with amazing results. I've taught and certified many professionals from across the country; PT's, OT's, COTA's, SLT's. Licensed Mental Health Counselors and have hosted hundreds of students' interns for clinical rotations in Equine Assisted Therapy. I understand the needs of those who are challenged. Or so I thought...

You see, a few weeks ago I took a rather nasty fall in the dark and brought my right knee down on the corner of a paver walkway; a one in a million impact that severed my Quad Tendon from my knee cap and render my right leg useless. Fortunately and many thanks to Dr Tandron of the JOI Institute, for he would reattach the tendon to my knee cap and I would regain the use of my right leg... in time anyway. But the rehab is long and the healing will be painfully slow.

In a few months though, it will be but a memory. The lessons on the other hand will last a lifetime. You see in an instant I went from independence and helping everyone else to being rather helpless myself. I now needed help doing just about everything. Even the simplest of tasks, now seemed monumental and required much planning and thought. Getting something from the kitchen was major logistical planning. I learned what it was really like to have special needs. Can I tell you it is eye opening and very humbling?

So what's the point? It really is rather simple. I discovered that at any time, any one of our lives can change; sometimes in an instant. At any time even the healthiest among us can be rendered helpless. At any time, any one of us can need the help of others or from an organization just like Haven Horse Ranch. I am thankful we exist. I am now a patient of my own organization, getting rehabilitation for range of motion and leg strengthening. All that research and work for others has paid off in my case as now I can receive some of the benefits.

Some day you may need the help of others, it can happen to you. What have you done lately to help people around you? Do you support any local programs? Do you volunteer anywhere? How long has it been since you contributed to a non-profit? In short, what have you done to help change the world, other than talk about it? I read something the other day that was profound and poignant. "When all is said and done, usually more is said than done."

Haven Horse Ranch exists to help our community and those in it with Special Needs. We exist because of the kindness and forethought of so many who have helped to support it financially and by volunteering over the years. But our work is far from complete and we need your help. I can only hope and pray that when you need someone, or when someone in your family needs an organization like Haven Horse Ranch, it will be there for you. But in the meantime, it might be wise to pay it forward and help to ensure that when you need help, it is there. Haven Horse Ranch is a 501c3, non-profit organization and all contributions are tax-deductible.

For more information go to or call us at 904-813-5710. To make a contribution go to

Haven Horse Ranch, changing the world, one child at a time.

Haven Horse Ranch, a non-profit, 501c3 organization is a licensed SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center and member of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship). The ranch provides riding lessons, horse camps, clinics , retreats and trail rides to all individuals including those with special needs. "Horses just have a way of breaking down barriers," explains Lehman. Whether child or adult, whether "normal" or "special needs" doesn't matter to the horse. If you're good to them, they'll do right by you." To sponsor a child, make a tax deductible contribution or for more information contact Haven Horse Ranch at 904-813-5710 or [email protected] or visit our website at


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