Freedom Reins Therapeutic Riding Center
Denise Dragon, Executive Director
I have always had a love for animals and rescuing that was passed down to me from my grandmother. Growing up near the ocean in Massachusetts it was not unusual for her to be nursing a seagull with a broken wing or a lost dog that showed up on the beach. She always said, “give back when you can”. I tried to pass this down to my own children as they grew up and I have continued to give back over the years and found that sense of purpose is a driving force behind a love for animals.
After my kids were grown and I was able to continue my 30+ years of horseback riding, I was finally at a point in my life where owning a horse was the next step. Justa came into my life 4 years ago. Justa was emotionally shut down and physically weak from not being ridden or given any real attention. For 6 months I visited her where she was boarded and brushed and walked her. Eventually doing groundwork and spending a lot of time sitting in the doorway of her stall while she ate and stared back at me. The transformation from her first day at the barn to the day I was finally able to tack her up and ride her still amazes me. She went from a horse with no personality-no sparkle in her eyes, she feared objects like dumpsters and squirrels moving in the woods. To a “mare” with a lot of spunk. She loves little kids and loves attention. Justa holds her head up high and is the queen in the herd. She is also soft to the touch, never spooks, is very aware of her rider and makes sure whomever is on her back is safe. Justa has come full circle and is a healthy, happy, very much-loved horse.
My lifelong love of horse’s shows is just one of my passions, my other passion is helping children. I have been a CASA for NH for 7 years now as well as a volunteer for a therapeutic riding program. I have dealt with a lot of children from all backgrounds, with different abilities and one thing has always been clear to me. There is a lack of resources that allows these children to feel safe. Safe to express themselves, Safe to be vulnerable, Safe to work through their emotions, thoughts, feelings. Therapeutic horsemanship allows for all of these to be dealt with. Cheshire County of New Hampshire needs this program, and I am in the unique position to be able to start this at my home and continue to give back using the animals I love to help those that need it but do not have access to these resources.
The name Freedom Reins symbolizes the feeling that both the rider and the horse feel when there is a connection. In a safe environment where the rider can work through their feelings or overcome a physical barrier while feeling the freedom of movement from the horse they are riding.