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The 'Magic Horse' offers independence & confidence for all riders

40-year-old Shauna Davis is developmentally delayed but saddles up and rides at the Magic Horse.

LAKESIDE, Calif. — Sometimes the only way to learn something is to do it yourself. In this Zevely Zone, I visited the Magic Horse Therapeutic Riding Center in Lakeside. 

After reporting in my hometown for the past 20 years, one of the best parts of my job is seeing an old friend. 40-year-old Shauna Davis is one of my all-time Zevely Zone favorites. "Hi Shauna!" I said as she ran up to me smiling from ear to ear giving me a huge hug. 

Shauna is developmentally delayed and suffers from a mild case of Cerebral Palsy.  

Shauna jumped up and down while she rubbed her hands together in excitement. She was eager for me meet Robin Pawl who is the founder of the non-profit organization The Magic Horse.

Credit: Barbie Bates

Robin introduced herself and then her horse Ka Lio. "He's a one-of-a-kind Omish sport horse which is a good way to say he is a mutt," said Robin who will teach anyone how to love a horse with a hands-off teaching style. "Shauna does everything, she grooms and tacks and rides and takes everything and puts it away. She does everything," said Robin who doesn't take it easy on her. "Oh, no, never," said Robin.  

Credit: Barbie Bates

On Robin's ranch, Shauna's mother Barbie is told to let go of the reins. "Oh, it's very hard for me, I've been doing this for 40 years, telling her, directing her how to do things and Robin is telling me to zip it and go over here and sit," said Barbie.

The Magic Horse is a place where kids of all ages and abilities find hope. A place where disabled people connect and grow, and their lives are changed through the magic and power of the horse. Instructors hope to increase confidence, patience, self-esteem, increased flexibility, balance, muscle strength, posture, coordination, and motor development in their riders.

Credit: Barbie Bates

I first met Shauna in 2017 at Walmart in El Cajon. She marched right up to me, shook my hand and we immediately became friends for life. We met during the holidays on a day Shauna looks forward to all year long. "Merry Christmas! "said Shauna as she rang the bell for the Salvation Army's Red Kettle. 

Shauna loves to raise money for people less fortunate than her. "You look beautiful," said her mother Barbie that day. "Thank you," said Shauna.  

Credit: Barbie Bates

A mother's love, along with the generosity of donors and Shauna's spirit brought me to tears that day. "This is one of those stories that is really touching my heart," I said reaching out for hug. Which is exactly how I feel every time I see the courageous woman take on the world. 

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Back in Lakeside, during her 30-minute riding lesson, Robin holds on to what is called a long line but other than that Shauna is allowed to do all the steering. In the past, Shauna went to other organizations where she received what was essentially a pony ride, but not at The Magic Horse. "I want all of my students to have as much success as possible and have as much independence as possible," said Robin. "It's not a pony ride. I don't baby them. I expect them to work and get things done and then they have a good time. Horses are accepting. They just take you as you are."

Shauna's bond with the horses has made her more independent than ever. "She is truly a gift. When she was first born, I used to wonder why me and now I am just so grateful and blessed that it is me because I'm a lucky mom," said Barbie. "Every time we leave, she asks me do I get to come back?"

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Barbie is a mother who has learned with the magic of horses, she really can step back and zip it up. I asked Shauna if that was true. "Yes, zip it," laughed Shauna.

Instructors at The Magic Horse Therapeutic Riding Center are highly trained and certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA). 

The Magic Horse only charges $40 an hour. The non-profit organization is in need of volunteers and donations. If you'd like to get involved with this wonderful organization, please click here.

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