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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Tonka" - The Special Horse

As we break for the holiday season, we want to thank you all - our readers and supporters - for your feedback and encouragement with our Wooden Horse Wednesday venture. We hope you'll continue to follow and read our blog, and we look forward to bringing you more awesome content and inspirational journeys in the new year!  

We'd like to close out 2016 by sharing with you the story of not only a dear friend, but also an Equicizer owner, who believes strongly in the Equicizer's power to change lives, as she has seen its effects in the life of her own beautiful daughter.

By Paula Lyles
As a mother, it is only natural to want to give your children everything they need to be the best they can be in life.  As a mother of children with special needs, you know the needs of these children mean so much more than succeeding in life.  Meeting these needs can be the difference between not walking and walking, or not speaking and speaking, and the list goes on and on.  It can be overwhelming, but a mother’s heart will never give up on making life better for her children.

Such is the case with my second sweet daughter, Jordan Grace, born with Dravet Syndrome, the most catastrophic form of pediatric epilepsy.  Children with Dravet Syndrome tend to develop a weak core over the years, and in an attempt to prevent this happening to Jordan, I began searching for something that we could use at home to help strengthen Jordan’s core.

In December of 2007 while searching, God lead me to The Wooden Horse Corporation in Norwalk, Ohio, and the owners, Frankie and Sandy Lovato.  In January of the next year, my sister, Anne, her children, Jordan, and I drove to Norwalk to see the wooden horses called Equicizers that Frankie lovingly crafts and specially designs for each individual rider.  It was an instant meeting of the hearts and minds, and we gave Frankie the “go ahead” to make a horse for Jordan.

Later that day at home, Jordan’s cousins, Emily, Josh, and Luke searched the internet for pictures of horses to show Jordan.  Jordan chose a Palomino horse that was tan with a blonde mane and tail and promptly named her “Tonka!”  We immediately started seeking donors to help sponsor Tonka and within weeks had donations totaling $1600—enough to pay for half of Tonka.

Tonka officially became part of our family in early February when Frankie and Sandy hand delivered her from Norwalk!  I will never forget that day; it was magical.  Jordan stood in our huge front window, dressed in her favorite red ice skating dress, eagerly awaiting the arrival of her horse.  When the trailer pulled into the driveway, and Tonka made her way into her new home, Jordan could hardly contain herself!  Scooping up her best friend, our cockapoo, Tulip, Jordan got up on her horse and rode with the biggest smile on her face.  I had tears, and I’m quite sure Frankie and Sandy did too.  Being able to have this horse for Jordan opened up a whole new world for her.

We had scheduled a fundraiser in April of that year for Dravet Syndrome, and it was there we planned to raise the remainder of the money for Tonka.  In mid  March, Sandy called me to let me know that an anonymous donor had contacted her and paid Tonka off in FULL.  Paid in full-a debt forgiven!  Amazing!  After I stopped sobbing, I hugged Tonka around the neck and whispered, “You really are a special horse!”

Over the years, Tonka has given many rides to family, neighbors, and friends in Ohio.  Brushing her mane and tail has always a favorite pastime of her riders.  Jordan loved her horse so much, and when Sandy began her therapeutic riding program, Stampede of Dreams, Jordan was one of her first riders.  We loved the nights we spent out on the farm riding.  We became good friends, more like family, with the Lovato's.  The time we were able to spend with Frankie and Sandy, I will always hold as some of the best ever!

Fast forward eight years, Tonka now lives with us in Colorado!  Tonka continues to give rides to children and adults of all ages.  People are amazed when they see this wonderful creation, the Equicizer.  I truly believe that every riding program, every physical therapy program, and home of a child with special needs would be blessed to have one.  Machines are nice, but impersonal; Equicizers  are wonderful and each has a personality of their own.  I will be forever grateful to Frankie, Sandy, and the Stampede of Dreams for all the love and support they have given us.

We'll see you in 2017!
If you or someone you work with has a personal story or testament with the Equicizer and would like to share it, please send us a message at or give us a call,

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