Horses help special needs kids

Morning Star shines for both

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  • Maddie embracing Zelda Photos provided

  • Savannah rides Dakota

  • Theresa gets close to Torch

  • Tommy rides Velvet

  • Z takes a look from Chrissy's back

  • Mackenzie aboard Blizzard

By Laurie Gordon

Judith Heim has spent many-a-day bare backing through Sussex County and has loved horses all of her life. She and her daughter, Shelly Heim, have owned and operated Morning Star Farm Riding Academy & Therapeutic Riding Center, in Fredon, for the past 27 years. Through Morning Star, they share their passion for equines with people of all ages.

“Our specialty is the training of children and adults in all area of horse care and riding,” Judith Heim said. “Also, we teach adults and children with special needs, Home School Groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Eagle Scout and Venturing: the art of horseback riding and horse care and safety. The farm also offers boarding, training and horse sales.

“All training is natural, kind and safe,” Heim said. “Our instructors are loving, well trained, qualified and Certified PATH Instructors. MSF is the home of many Grand Champion Horses and Ponies.”

In 1950, Heim's parents bought property on the Paulins Kill Lake, so she grew up spending summers on a farm in Sussex County. She married her husband and moved to Florida where they began their journey as Morning Star Farm.

“In 1990 we moved back to Sussex County where a farm that I had grown up admiring all my life was for sale on Route 94 in Fredon,” Heim said. “We then purchased what had been known as Lodestar Farm, a dairy farm.”

They changed the name to Morning Star Farm.

“We realized that the set up of our farm and the wonderful horses that we use in our riding programs were just perfect for children and were especially kind with children with special needs,” Heim said. “We put together group programs for Kittatinny Regional High School and North Warren High School, Fredon Elementary, Celebrate the Children, but it was really Kittatinny that urged us on to get even more involved. So, we attended Centenary Community College where we got Certified as Therapeutic Riding Instructors. We have a special connection with Centenary and our relationship is strong after many years with our Professor and the founder of N.A.R.H.A. Professor Octavia Brown.”

Heim said that special needs that respond well to therapeutic riding include Autism, brain injury, behavior problems, anxiety, Cerebral Palsy and physical handicaps.

“The Benefits of Therapeutic Riding for all people--especially those with disabilities-- includes lots of interaction with horses,” Heim said. “Our horseback riding involves actually learning to ride a horse, and each lesson is adapted for the individual's specific needs.

There are many benefits to Therapeutic Riding such as improvements in fine and gross motor skills, improved motor coordination and balance, core strengthening, develops or Improves Social Skills, positive sensory stimulation.”

Their Thereapeutic Horse Back Riding has spawned a relationship with the privately funded Biondo Foundation. In memory of Ingeborg A. Biondo, who worked with special needs children, the foundation helps families with children with special needs take advantage of Morning Star's programs.

“It's our pleasure to partner with Morning Star Farm and their wonderful program,” said Natalie Armstrong from the foundation.

Throughout the school year, Morning Star Farm offers riding lessons for everyone of all ages and abilities. Sunday Horsemanship nvolves a riding lesson and teaching horse care and safety. Morning Star is a Certified N.J. Summer Camp during July & August.

Morning Star Farm Riding Academy & Therapeutic Riding Center is located at 489 State Route 94. For further information or to schedule a riding lesson, call 973.579-1226 or 973.222.8260.

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