Jacobs’ Ladder – Children & Adults Benefit From Therapeutic Horseback Riding

With a passion for horses and a servant's heart, Leslie Jacobs established Jacobs' Ladder in December 1999 to provide equine-related activities for children and adults with special needs.

“With my experiences in riding horses, I saw how therapeutic it was emotionally and physically in dealing with stress,” Jacobs said. “There are therapeutic benefits in riding horses, but it also gives people a feeling of control, sense of accomplishment, and increased self esteem.”

Located in Hahira, Lowndes County, Jacobs’ Ladder serves approximately 250 clients, representing about 2,000 rides annually.

“I’m not a physical therapist, but through the years, we’ve learned that riding helps with bending and stretching and mobility,” said Jacobs, a certified therapeutic riding instructor. “We had a child with Cerebral Palsy who was able to ride a bicycle after riding horses for a while. His mother said it was learning balance from horseback riding.”

Keeping costs to a minimum—$25 per 30-minute session—some special needs students qualify for assistance through scholarships and programs like Easter Seals.

The Air Warrior Courage Foundation provides scholarships for therapeutic riding sessions at Jacobs’ Ladder for military dependents. “This is a benefit for military families that have special need children, and Moody Air Force Base refers them to us,” Jacobs said. “Each year, we have 15 to 20 children from the base.”

In 2015, Jacobs attended the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) “Equine Services 4 Heroes” workshop, specifically focused on helping veterans, including those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“That was our starting point for offering services to Moody personnel and veterans,” said Jacobs, a certified PATH equine specialist in mental health and learning. “Everything is confidential, and I have recently made United Way aware that we offer the service. We are trying to grow the program.”

Jacobs’ Ladder has been a Greater Valdosta United Way agency partner for 15 years.

“During COVID-19, we were forced to pause therapeutic riding,” Jacobs said. “The United Way kept supporting us financially, which helped us keep the horses fed and other expenses. We would have struggled more without the United Way there to help. Jacobs’ Ladder also received funds from the Greater Valdosta United Way Bruce Williams Impact Grant to host a summer camp.

“The grant allowed children to participate at no charge,” Jacobs said. “It’s a great way to grow our program. We send information through the schools, and it provides another resource—at no charge—for children with special needs in our community.”

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