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Halifax family brings riding therapy to upper Dauphin County - abc27 WHTM

Halifax family brings riding therapy to upper Dauphin County

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"They're coming because they want to be here. Nobody makes them come," said Jonathan Mattis, President of Grace Acres Therapeutic Riding Center, outside of Halifax. "They want to be here. So that's what makes it easier to do."

It was his dream to build a place in Upper Dauphin County where special needs children and young adults could experience the joy of horse care and horseback riding. So, last year, Jonathan and brother Adam, teamed up with family members and volunteers to convert an old barn on their grandparents' farm into a therapeutic horseback riding center. In April of this year, with a few donated horses and guidance from the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association, they were ready for riders. It was a challenge welcomed by the whole family.

"It's not like work. I get up. I don't mind coming here," said Jonathan. "Where as, at some jobs I've had, it's like, oh, time to go to work again. But here, it's what I want to do."

Both brothers have training and education in the special needs field. Jonathan still works in that field today. But, with full time jobs outside the riding center, both must jockey their schedules to be available for a growing list of clients at their newly opened center, like 23-year-old Sean Davis of Millersburg.

As Vice-president of the facility, Adam Mattis is pleased with their start.

"In June we started with three riders, and, right now, we have almost tripled in three months," said Adam. "We have eight full time riders. So, one more would be tripling our clientele."

"It's the one activity that has always stuck with him," said Sean Davis's mom, Veronica, comparing the riding sessions with other activities her son has tried in the past. "He's always wanted to go back to it."

"He even went so far as to try to pick out barns to get," she added with a chuckle. "I said,'what are you looking at barns for?' He said because I want a horse."

Graceful Acres is a non-profit operation, named in honor of the brothers' grandmother, Grace Mattis. Their stable now includes six horses and the staff has grown to ten volunteers. Funding the much needed facility is handled by the Mattis family. It's an investment they call worthwhile.

"The children and young adults need the help in this area and that's what we're about," said Jonathan Mattis.

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