The Cause
The James S. Brady Therapeutic Riding Program

“My daughter, Marcella, is 5 years old. She has Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy… For Marcella it has directly affected the use of her legs and her trunk…she wears braces and walks with a walker… Marcella has been participating in the program since last spring and loves it!  When we talk about riding the ponies, Daisy and Olaf, she gets excited. For her, it is not work, but fun!  She is learning how to groom them, talk to them, and control them with reining. It is wonderful to watch. Each day, Marcella is faced with accessibility issues—whether it be at school or simply limited or no access to businesses in the city, but for a short period of time each month, in our Golden Gate Park, she gets to participate in an activity that does not focus on her limitations, but rather, what she can do! How empowering for her!  When riding a horse, a human’s body will move as if walking, and this is a difficult motion to duplicate in a clinic…  In the short period of time that Marcella has been riding, there has been noticeable improvement in her posture!  I can only imagine that for Marcella and the other children, being on the horse, where the horse’s legs become the legs of the riders, would give a sort of freedom and mobility, that they would not otherwise be able to experience.”

– Elisa Villafuerte, mother of Marcella Villafuerte


“My daughter, Maira Monasterio, is 10 years old and has cerebral palsy… As a parent, it is a pleasure to be able to cross town on a Saturday morning instead of driving 1-2 hours out of the City on a school day to get to where other programs offer hippotherapy, spend time in the park, connect with other parents of children with disabilities, and know that my daughter is engaged in an activity that is fun, good for her body, and empowering for her as a young person with disabilities”

– Erica Monasterio, mother of Maria Monasterio





“Our 7-year-old son, Luka, was diagnosed 6 years ago with an extremely rare neurodegenerative disorder called Alexander Disease.  He is unable to walk and has limited speech… Luka lights up when I tell him we’re going to see Sarah and ride the ponies.  Luka is met every week by a group of young, enthusiastic volunteers cheering him on and I know he feels proud to sit atop the horse… We have tried many different treatments for Luka - some traditional, some alternative - and I have spent hours observing professionals work with Luka.  Sarah Meakin has a natural gift and the James Brady Riding Program, although run strictly by volunteers, stands on par with (if not exceeds) privately run physical therapy and hippostherapy programs.  On so many levels, this program is successful, not just for the riders but for the youth who volunteer and the small community of families, who make contact, become friends and support one another.  I only wish that the program could grow and that more children could be have the chance to participate.”

- John and Terry Pelka, parents of Luka Pelka


“Before we started to bring him to the Brady Riding Program with the Meakins, Max had not attended any school of any kind. He would not follow directions except once in a blue moon, and had difficulty listening and registering what was said to him… When Max began his involvement with the Brady Program he was not only an unwilling participant, he was utterly terrified of the ponies… It was all we could do to take him to watch from the bleachers… Then, one Saturday, not only did Max enter the ring with Sarah, but, as she was kneeling, he clambered aboard Olaf using Sarah’s thighs as a mounting stool!  Having overcome his fear a little over 18 months ago, Max has learned to perform his exercises while underway, led the enormous creatures from the ground, navigated himself by reining, learned to TROT! And developed the skills needed to achieve an emphatic “WHOA!”  His ability to listen to and follow complex directions; to work through unpleasant or unwanted circumstances, to begin to stretch himself and learn to trust—himself, his instructor, and his partner (the ponies)—I attribute to the remarkable student-teacher relationship he and Sarah Meakin have forged over the months.  She has helped him begin to find himself and others in ways we almost did not dare to dream before this marvelous journey began… The gift you have given him and us is a precious jewel—our son unfolding into his self.”

- Christine Kiessling Wolf, mother of Maximilian Wolf


 “It’s hard to believe the same boy who a year ago was crying and clinging to his mom when it was his turn to ride, is now running around our house shouting “I want horseback riding.”  Today at age four Patrick willingly goes in the ring, scrambles onto Daisy  (with help from the volunteers) and rides off without a backward glance at his mom.  To see him so happy and to see the progress he has made in his riding, with the help of Sarah and the amazing volunteers, truly does our hearts well.  The Brady riding program has helped Patrick bolster his confidence and improve his social and gross motor skills.  We are so grateful for the existence of this program and to all who have made it possible.   Thank you!”

- Christine Williams Lee, mother of Patrick Lee


“The Brady Horseback Riding program has been a great morale booster for Gabbie.  She looks forward to Saturday and thoroughly enjoys the exercises and the contact with Debbie and Olaf.  Riding seems to have a calming effect on Gabbie.  Horseback riding has bolstered Gabbie’s confidence.  This transfers to other endeavors that Gabbie has undertaken such as swimming and gymnastics.  She is no longer fearful in the water and is very agile on such things such as the balance beam and the rings.  (We) are very grateful for Gabbie having the opportunity to participate in your program.”

- Antonio Barrientos and Peggy Rendon