Enhancing Lives Through Equine-Assisted Therapy
“The number 7 is the foundation of God's word. 7 is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). The number 7 was used 735 times in the Bible. The repetition conveyed the thought of "without limit" and that's what we instill in our kiddos. And, the book of Revelation speaks of Stars as Angels."
Seven Star Horse & Family Center was the brainchild of two women whose physically and mentally challenged family members experienced improvement through riding sessions. These women (one being Dovie Barrett), along with riding instructor Stacey Mech and a few other concerned friends and family members united to establish the 7 Star Center and its Board of Directors. The Center began delivering services to its first clients in June, 2004. The Center was granted 501 (c) (3) status by the Internal Revenue Service December 1, 2004.
A lot of people have asked about the meaning behind the name. Dovie always said that 7 was the perfect number from the Bible – but that was pretty much all. Our Executive Director at the time looked it up and here’s what she found:
“The number 7 is the foundation of God's word. 7 is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). The number 7 was used 735 times in the Bible. The repetition conveyed the thought of "without limit" and that's what we instill in our kiddos. And, the book of Revelation speaks of Stars as Angels.”
In 2008, 7 Star became a member center of NARHA – North American Riding for the Handicapped Associates, Inc. which is now known as PATH – Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International. PATH is an international non-profit organization that promotes the benefit of the horse for individuals with physical, emotional, and learning disabilities. PATH promotes equine facilitated therapy and activity programs around the world and offers certification for therapeutic riding instructors as well as Centers to become Premier Centers – which affords the program more status as being considered professional and well-trained.
As always with non-profits, the biggest problem was how to finance the program. Dovie had worked and worked trying to get insurance to pay for the sessions, but had no luck. So, as we always do on Boards, we look for new members who can possibly get us what we need. She and Gwen Murphy were acquainted through Amarillo Women’s Network. When she found out that Gwen was a therapist (and taking insurance), she immediately invited her to join the board. Later it was found out she thought Gwen had some magical power that could get payments from the insurance panels. – No luck, but Gwen became enthralled with the program and wanted to help in any way she could.
The records show that in 2008, 7 Star offered two therapeutic programs: (1) individualized one-on-one therapeutic riding sessions for children and adults, offered 5 days/week throughout the year, and; (2) four 1-week summer day camp sessions designed for disabled and physically challenged children ages 6–12. In addition, 7 Star’s riding instructors provided recreational (non-therapeutic) riding instruction when the schedule allowed, which brought additional revenues into the program.
In 2009, we held the first board training with Amarillo Area Foundation. In that meeting, we established the goals, visions and value statements that we adhere to today. This was when the dba 7 Star Therapeutic Riding Center was established in order for better understanding of what we were doing at the time. New by-laws were written and approved in March, 2009.
Throughout the years, 7 Star rented room, board and arena from various facilities around the area. But had difficulty being consistent with our lessons because these facilities (who were in the business of making money) would frequently kick us out of the arena in order to have a roping competition or some other money-making activity. And, all of these were extremely expensive for us.
While we were at Las Tiaras Firma – south on Pullman Road, our instructors and the owner knocked heads because the owner thought we needed to be using a certain feed for the horses that our instructors didn’t agree with. So, we moved one more time to one of the instructor’s home and facility east of Washburn into an outdoor arena. She could stall and feed the horses as well as be our instructor but it was still costing us an arm and a leg.
By the beginning of 2011, the Board was really in a quandary about what to do. We were putting a lot of money into the program, providing good services and making a difference but slowly going downhill financially. And, the area was in a drought that was costing even more money in order to get hay for the horses.
So, one day in February, Gwen was at the airport going to a conference. Anne Friemel, another therapist, was also at the airport – and the flight was delayed. They started catching up with each other . . . which included Gwen talking about what she was doing at 7 Star and the problems they were having --- and Anne stated that she had a 100’x100’ insulated arena that was not being used. And, the 7 Star world changed.
April 1, 2011, 7 Star moved to the current location, and things have exploded. It significantly decreased our horse-care overhead where we could increase our services to the community. BUT, the instructor refused to come with us. So suddenly, we had clients but no instructor. Anne again saved us by being the instructor. She had started as a certified instructor with NARHA in the 1980’s when she worked with the very first therapeutic riding program in Amarillo at the West Texas State equine facility. Pete Lucero was her neighbor, saw the activity around the arena and offered to help -- now he is a certified PATH Instructor as well as certified Eagala Equine Specialist and our first full-time paid employee.
Since then, 7 Star added a Volunteer Coordinator who is also a certified Eagala Equine Specialist, (Courtnie Stevenson), a part-time contracted LPC who is a certified Eagala Mental Health Professional (Denise Hefley) and a part-time PATH certified instructor (Paula Simpson). Although Paula was not Eagala certified, she had vast horse experience and worked with Gwen on Saturdays as her Equine Specialist.
We have always tried to have a parent advisor on our Board and Rachael Wade, a client’s mother, had filled that position for a couple of months when it became necessary to seek another Executive Director. Rachael listened to all the conversation and called Gwen later, saying that she thought she had the skill-set we were looking for. She was hired and made a huge impact. Her ability to promote 7 Star through various forms of media and the press, as well as presentations throughout the community and her ability to research and develop profitable fundraisers was a huge asset.
In 2016, 7 Star acquired its very first official office. The office was in the form of a trailer house. Wheel chair accessible ramps were built on both sides of the office by the Texas Ramp Project and the Downtown Lions Club. Not long afterwards, caliche was laid for the roadbed into the facility and parking lot after a lot of hard work by Barbara Scroggins, Mark Zimmer and Ken Crump.
2018 has been an outstanding year for 7 Star, a year of change, turmoil, progress and excitement. Through the generosity of Mark Zimmer, a metal ADA-compliant mounting ramp was built and installed on the south inside wall of the arena. Then, early in the year, a remote-powered lift was installed. Through the generosity of a group of men who call themselves the Prairie Sharks, we were finally able to purchase an adaptive saddle. With these three wonderful pieces of equipment, we can now truly serve wheelchair confined individuals with major handicaps. We have been blessed!
And, through a grant from the Amarillo Area Foundation, we finally have a tractor and all the equipment we need in order to take care of the property and arena.
Due to personal reasons, Rachael Wade felt the need to resign from her ED position in May. She has been sorely missed, but has stayed in touch and offers to help when she can. Courtnie Stevenson, who was the Volunteer Coordinator, was hired as the new ED. She brings a lot of enthusiasm and passion and is eager to promote 7 Star in every way possible. A recently retired volunteer has been filling in the Volunteer Coordinator position and doing a wonderful job.
Other staffing has changed also, some volunteer, some contract, part-time workers, and two are full-time paid employees:
7 Star currently has an Executive Director, Volunteer Coordinator, Barn Manager, 2 Path International certified instructors, 3 Eagala-certified Equine Specialists, and 3 Eagala-certified Mental Health Professionals.
7 Star has truly been blessed through generous funders, dedicated staff, volunteers and board.
We are committed to operating with integrity and following PATH International standards as we present a fun, family -focused approach to equine-assisted therapy.
As passionate stewards of our clients and horses, we are dedicated to showing respect, support and compassion for all.
We have a lasting commitment to serve those in need and educate the community about equine-assisted therapy
We pledge to collaborate with like-minded entities and community stakeholders to provide the highest quality services and reach those most in need of our services.