NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - "Alright Trevor, we're going to have fun today right," says Marc Green, Founder Horses & Hearts Ministry to a rider as he leads a horse around a small paddock.
Green's faithful vision is Horses & Hearts Ministry. Along for the ride are special needs kids learning what it's like to be on a good horse.
Green, dressed in a cowboy kerchief and black cowboy hat, jokes to his young rider, " You don't have to do the walking."
Green's mustache gives him the appearance of a cowboy about to hit the trail, but this modern day cowboy is all about helping kids.
"The fun part about it is to watch these kids when they get in that saddle and that horse takes the first step," says Green
"Here we go," says a wrangler to 5-year-old Hallie Morris of Woden.
Hallie's mom and dad Ray and Paula Morris watch on with total ease.
"She wears braces," says Paula. "A plus for her side, she might not be able to ride a tricycle, but she can ride this horse."
Being horseback is a big deal for Jade Whitley, a child wearing pink cowboy boots, eager to leave a wheelchair even it's just for a few minutes.
"It's just fun and it gives me an experience. And hum. And. It's just fun!", says Jade to her mom Bonnie Whitley of Center.
A confidence builder for sure. One rider wore a Superwoman cape.
Caleb Carson gets on with ease, leading the wrangler to say, "You've been on a horse before." Carson responds with a positive, " Yeah!"
But at first the climb on a big horse can be intimidating. That's where Clyde, the miniature donkey comes in.
"He'll help kids get used to big horses," explains Kynslei Dichard, a child volunteer with Horses & Hearts Ministry.
And there's always Sadie and Katie, a matched pair of mules, to pull you around.
"I just love hauling kids around, you know," said wagon master Jim Hightower of Lufkin before telling his team, "Come on. Get up there."
Horses help kids who don't talk to people. Marc knows this. He's a cowboy. But he's got the science to back him up. His wife, Dr. Dawn Green is a school psychologist.
"The horse is a great equalizer because it doesn't matter if you aren't able to speak or if you have challenges socially," says Dr. Green.
"There's a bond in a horse and man that just can't be explained and Chase and Bubba have got that little bond," explains Green about 12-year-old Chase Hall.
"Hey Bubba," says Chase as he approaches the calm sorrel gelding.
It's obvious Chase is connecting with a friend who passes no judgment.
"You know what I did this week Bubba?," says Chase directly into the eyes of the horse. Chase continues to have a conversation with the horse that only the two can understand.
Horses & Hearts Ministry opens numerous lines of communication. Extended families place worries aside. Parents and their children connect. New found friends forget their life challenges. And then, hanging out with a four legged friend can be conversation enough.
Horses & Hearts Ministry uses trained volunteers. There are no therapists, but many families have later sought out equine therapists for their children.
Upcoming events are April 14 and May 12. It's free to everyone. Some guests travel miles to the Impact Cowboy Church on Farm to Market Road 2112, east of Nacogdoches off of Highway 7.