BY NASTASSIA PUTZ, PUBLISHER
Nestled on a beautiful 17-acre horse ranch, and hiding amongst a quaint residential town is Heaven’s Gait Ranch Inc. This “hidden gem,” as patrons like to call it, began with the humility of one woman’s desire to help others. It then continued to grow throughout the years because many people joined together to make her dream a reality.
With her faith in God, her love of horses and her respect for U.S. military veterans, Elaine McClaren wanted to make a difference in the lives of those around her by creating a therapeutic riding center for individuals with physical, social, emotional and psychological needs. In the mid-2000s, she went in search of the perfect piece of land—finding one right in the heart of the Cedar Grove community. However, despite her high hopes at the time, she was diagnosed with cancer, and unfortunately never lived to see her dream come true.
In 2016, Elaine’s family and friends choose to carry on her torch. This group of caring entrepreneurs included: Brian McClaren (Elaine’s son), Margaret Mary McClaren (Brian’s wife and executive director of Heaven’s Gait) and Mark Zirngibl (Margaret Mary’s father). They decided to keep her vision alive by incorporating Heaven’s Gait as a non-profit, therapeutic riding center that serves individuals with special needs and veterans with disabilities.
So in order to build this compassionate community, it took a village of people to recognize the need and challenge the adversity against it. Margaret Mary confirms that it was “a Godsend of people with good hearts and quality values coming together that created Heaven’s Gait Ranch and its mission.”
With the help of family, friends, neighbors, previous employers, educators, mentors from around the country and even overseas, Heaven’s Gait officially opened its gates for lessons in 2017.
“Countless people took a chance on us, and their faith encouraged us to keep going despite various obstacles along the way,” says Margaret Mary.
“For all of these reasons, I am proud to say Heaven’s Gait Ranch was founded under the guidance of our Christian values, built with the support of generous donors and blessed with the time and talent of many volunteers.”
Unless you have been to this ranch before, as a new patron you will need to keep your eyes open to see the sign quaintly positioned off Main Street downtown. Then while driving down to the barn, you will notice horses hanging out in the outdoor pasture grazing and patiently awaiting their next riding adventure. Currently, there are eight gentle giants (therapy horses), an indoor/outdoor arena, trails, heated stables and a sensory learning space located inside the barn where people enjoy hanging out.
Equine Therapy is Vital
Margaret Mary explains, “For some of our participants with special needs, riding is the only activity they do, so it’s crucial for them (and their families) that they keep coming to remain mentally sharp, socially engaged and physically active.”
But this is not the only significant reason behind their ongoing programs. “For some of our Veterans with anxiety or post-traumatic stress, November through March can be particularly painful; holidays can be difficult, and it’s depressingly dark for anyone that time of year, let alone for someone who may not work because they remain at home on disability. Heaven’s Gait Ranch becomes so much more than just a fun place to ride; it’s a home and a family that cares for your well-being—week after week, season after season, year after year. And our family is committed to you for the long-haul.”
For information on volunteering or registering someone to ride, contact Margaret Mary at 920-400-0628 or [email protected].
Winter 2020 Session: January 13 – March 19
Spring 2020 Session: April 6 – June 4
Summer 2020 Session: June 16 – August 27
Fall 2020 Session: September 14 – December 17