The Horse will teach you, if you will listen.
                Ray Hunt

The bond between the human and the horse is thousands of years old.  Until recent history the horse was a constant in our western world.  It was the power that built our nation.  The Horse tilled our fields, carried our produce to market, pulled our wagons, carried our family.  The horse was a daily part of human life. During history countless books have been written about the bond between the horse and human.

Modern Equine Therapy explores and develops this ancient bond. It has been noted that horses calm us, they challenge us.  When we learn to communicate with horses we learn much about ourselves.  If we are anxious, they can teach us to control our fear. If we are angry, they teach us anger will get us nowhere. If  we are lonely, they are there.  

If you would like to learn more

about our work with folks with special needs,

please email us at-


Wild Horse Mountain Ranch

Therapeutic Horsemanship & Mustang Rescue




The term "special needs" can be stifling.  We all have special needs; we all have special strengths.  In our program we have the luxury of approaching each learning opportunity  from the student's strengths and this yields great results     

                                                                                                           WHMR Director,  Stacey Harnew-Swanson, MA

Stacey has worked with students and taught preschool through college courses. Her biggest, however, influence has been her own children.  Stacey's oldest child was especially influential as she was diagnosed as gifted at a young age and later, after discovery of a brain tumor, was placed on the other spectrum of special needs programs.  Stacey notes that all the while, she was the same smart and funny little girl.  The teaching style Stacey uses at WHMR embodies is an outgrowth of the lessons her daughter taught her.


Therapuetic Horsemanship

It seems truly magical, however  research and science is bearing out what many have known for a long time.  Relationships with horses help humans-- physically, emotionally and intellectually.

Stacey Harnew-Swanson, MA has been a teacher for over twenty years.  In 2005 she began her research in Equine Therapy. Using Mustangs adopted from Oregon's BLM wild horse herds, she started working with children of varying ability levels.

In 2011, with influx of 10 rescue horses (Kiger Mustangs), Stacey expanded her teaching to include adults.  The horses were largely untouchable and the adult volunteers were inexperienced.  While demonstrating techniques for gentling these horses, Stacey found she was consistently using the words and techniques of Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance.  

The names Hunt and Dorrance are synonymous with Natural Horsemanship.  In fact, it was their techniques that gave rise to the development of the main character  in famous 1980s film, "The Horse Whisperer."  Buck Brannaman was their student and learned much from these wise cowboys.  The men espoused a philosophy that requires the person to learn to listen to the horse, to read its needs and meet those needs as they ask the horse to partner with the human.  It is quite easy to see how these skills can benefit any human through increased  communication skills, increased confidence and, of course, empathy.  The lack of these qualities account for many maladies in the human, and here is an engaging way for horses to teach humans how to better themselves. 

Research has also pointed to the physical benefits of horseback riding. On the back of a horse the human is elevated to the walking position.  The cadence of the horse's stride approximates motion of the human gait and allows the rider to develop core muscles and build the balance and strength that enables the human to walk.