Erin's Glencara, appropriately nicknamed Angel, served as the inspiration and guiding force behind Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center
from its inception in 1988 until her death in 2005. The 14-hand Connemara
was the program's first horse, and she went on to achieve recognition as the 2003 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship
International Equine of the Year. Angel helped hundreds of riders gain skill and confidence over her years of service as a therapy horse.
As Angel grew in experience and assisted more and more riders, the program at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center
grew alongside her. Cedar Creek, located in Columbia, MO, now allows over 200 people each year to participate in therapeutic riding programs. A full barn of horses carries on Angel's legacy.
Angel seemed to exude serenity. Nervous riders calmed down and began to smile after a few laps around the ring on the dependable mare's back. Newcomers to Cedar Creek often started out on Angel, whose peaceful demeanor would quickly soothe their fears. No wonder Angel was Cedar Creek's most prized possession.
Angel took on the task of working with Cedar Creek's most challenging riders, who quickly forged bonds with her. Even when autistic riders reacted suddenly or violently, she never spooked in return. Instead, she remained still, calming them with her steady presence. She knew her routine, enjoyed her job, and motivated her riders to achieve their goals.
Hannah, a young girl with muscular dystrophy, found the perfect riding partner in Angel. Hannah had to be connected to an oxygen tank at all times in order to breathe comfortably, so her father walked beside Angel with the tank to allow Hannah to ride. Angel paid no mind to the tank, taking care as always to bear her rider slowly and safely. Whenever Hannah became tired or felt out of breath, she would ask Angel to halt. Angel would patiently stand, breathing slowly in the same rhythm as Hannah, until her rider recovered.
Another of Angel's many devotees was a young boy named Joseph who had congenital myopathy. This condition made Joe so weak that, even with the help of leg braces, he could not climb the steps to mount Angel on his own. While Joe was unable to move his mouth into a smile, his eyes widened with happiness whenever he saw Angel. His time with Angel meant so much to him that he wrote and illustrated two books about his equine hero, titling one of them, "Angel is Good."
Perhaps Angel's crowning glory was her extraordinarily smooth trot, which allowed freedom of motion to those who were normally wheelchair-bound. Many of her riders struggled to maintain their balance due to physical conditions. On any other horse, they were limited to walking, but on Angel, they could experience their first trot steps. They no longer had to fear losing their balance and falling: Angel's smooth, steady gait kept her riders safely in the saddle.
As every good therapy horse should do, Angel gave her riders strength, assurance, and a sense of achievement. But Angel went above and beyond these already impressive gifts. With her serene personality and gentle gaits, Angel gave her riders wings.