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Totally East Texas: Windridge Therapeutic Equestrian Center raising funds to build $1.3 million Tyler facility

Taya Kyle, wife of American Sniper, Chris Kyle to headline "Healing Through Horsemanship" luncheon for Windridge

DIANA, Texas — Thirty years of 'Healing through Horsemanship is the lasting legacy of WindridgeTherapeutic Equestrian Center's in East Texas.

The Diana therapy center for people with disabilities or mental health needs is anything but average. The life skills and healing that children, adults and veterans experience atop a horse is profound.

The non-profit is working to build a larger facility in Tyler. It is expected to cost $1.3 million dollars to build the new location on Bascom Road to better serve the community. 

When you pull up to Windridge Therapeutic Equestrian Center, it is hard not to be drawn to the peaceful surroundings and amazed by these breathtaking horses with a grand purpose.

"It is totally life changing. It is not horse riding lessons, it is therapy," mother Anne Schultz said. "But it's fun for them. And it has just made a world of difference."

Schultz's son, Kurt, started therapy at Windridge 25 years ago as a toddler.

"He has never been scared of anything, but he was a little bitty thing sitting on top of this huge horse, and you know, I was timid, but not him at all," Schultz remembered. 

Kurt receives therapy for cerebral palsy. It has helped him learn to walk, with his speech, use his left hand more and to gain more independence. 

"Why we use the horse is his movement mimics the human walk explicitly," said Dawn Martin, CEO/Executive Director of Windridge. "So, I can put a body that needs some level of activity or form of therapy and have the horse move. We can address balance, coordination, challenges and make improvements to potentially have a person go for using a wheelchair to being able to use arm crutches or actually being able to walk."

Martin says students get 3,000 repetitions of movement just by riding on a horse for 30 minutes, which is unattainable in traditional therapy. In addition to treating various physical challenges, Windridge also helps those with autism, ADHD, victims of abuse, those struggling with substance abuse and other issues. 

It is also a resource for our veterans.

"We have individuals that are with us that have the PTSD. We are able to work towards the relationship between the horse and the person regaining trust within humanity," Martin explained. "They're regaining trust within themselves. It's not just what they are learning here. It's how did they take what we've learned here, out in their daily life? Because that's what's important."

With this facility in Diana, it can be quite a trip for families living on the opposite side of East Texas. Their facility in Tyler is leased and they are working to build a new location that is an all-weather facility. 

"And once you start volunteering and seeing the good that this organization and this type of therapy does. It really catches your heart," volunteer John Jones said.

Anyone who visits Windridge can feel the heart of each therapist, volunteer and horse helping change families lives beyond their expectations. 

"We have had the opportunity to go to other facilities that are closer to our home and we still choose to come here," Schultz said. "We're family."

East Texans can learn more about Windridge at the Healing Through Horsemanship luncheon featuring Taya Kyle, wife of the late Chris Kyle depicted in the film "American Sniper."

An event like ours just couldn't happen without the generosity of ou... r great community here in Tyler. We have received so much support from sponsors who are leaders when it comes to causes that benefit so many in East Texas. Today, we would like to mention three of those sponsors and thank them.

The event is Thursday, November 21 at 11:30 a.m. and will benefit the Windridge Therapeutic Equestrian Center of Tyler.  

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