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  • Writer's pictureTracy Miller

Kids Who Count Horses, Not Sheep, To Fall Asleep!

One woman’s vision of a horse-assisted therapy barn for children with special needs has expanded into an educational facility for the community to learn and connect

Each and every one of us have our own unique ways to relax, cope with stress, and learn to develop our personal wellbeing. For children with and without special needs, this is not always so simple. Lisa Afshari has made it her life’s mission to make sure every child has the opportunity to fine tune those skills. Out of that passion, came Ready Set Ride, a nonprofit, volunteer based, horse-assisted therapy barn for kids with special needs.

I’m so excited to share the story of my friend Lisa Afshari, who has inspired not only me, but hundreds of kids, adults and families to enjoy today and reach for a brighter tomorrow. As a wife and stay-at-home mom of three girls, Lisa hit a point in her life where she felt something was missing. As someone who grew up loving the outdoors and horses, she realized that she needed to get involved with those passions once again. When Lisa signed up to volunteer one day, she never predicted that the barn would turn into her life’s work. Now, Ready Set Ride, is home to 11 horses, 3 mini ponies, 2 mini donkeys, several cats, kittens, chickens, over 80 volunteers, and more than 50 riders that come each week to spend much cherished time with their four and two-legged friends.

The programs Lisa has created are certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), but it’s her unique approach to teaching which has led to rewarding physical and emotional experiences for many. What you’ll find, is that each experience at the barn is thoughtfully curated, even down to the pairing of horse to rider. For instance, experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse often improves one’s flexibility, balance and muscle strength. For children who use wheelchairs, with limited leg strength she pairs them with a skinner, taller horse that they can sit comfortably on. For others with sensory needs a shorter, stockier horse with a smoother gait that will not bounce them up and down, is a much better companion. All of the children need a place they can go to feel a sense of accomplishment and the unique bonds form with these special horses have led to improved confidence and self-esteem. Customizing each experience to each child has become has become a very rewarding experience for Lisa, and makes countless of children light up with joy!

While the horse-assisted therapy is the primary purpose of the barn, the sense of community and belonging that comes with that safe space has translated into a second mission to help the community understand the value of special needs kids having an outlet where they do not feel judged. In addition to helping children with special needs improve their emotional health, social skills, self-confidence, anxiety, and impulse control, Ready Set Ride is also a community where everyone feels as though they belong. Everyone is welcomed without judgment and encouraged to be themselves.

Similarly to sleep, equine-assisted therapy can help children with problem solving skills, confidence, emotional wellness, and improved focus. In fact, a benefit to the horse assisted therapy can even lead better quality sleep. The therapy helps the children to settle down and feel at ease. At the same time, all of the positive energies experienced during the riding will also magnify when kids have slept better at night. The soothing movements and the connection one feels with the horse will be even more therapeutic after a good night’s rest.

How does Lisa sleep best to recover from a hard day’s work at the barn? Lisa is a stomach sleeper, and, as an animal lover, she cannot fall asleep without her dog, Lexi!

About Ready Set Ride

Lisa's Afshari’s vision of a therapy barn for children with special needs has expanded into an educational facility for the community, and a special inclusive and welcoming place where friends and families can enjoy, learn and connect with animals and nature. It all started with one horse, a little girl, and a dream. Now the dream has become hope for so many! They have 11 four-legged friends who provide therapy, more than 80 volunteers a week who help care for the horses and participate in the sessions and over 50 riders a week who come for an hour to enjoy freedom from a wheelchair, freedom from a walker, wind blowing through their hair, and riding a horse JUST like everyone else! Ready Set Ride is located at 13056 Essington Road in Plainfield, IL. You can find them on Facebook or Instagram. For information on how to donate, please visit here. For more information on how to volunteer, please email For any other general inquiries, email

About Inventive Sleep, Inc.

Inventive Sleep is dedicated to helping people realize their dreams and goals starting with a great night’s sleep. Its founder, Sleep Products Innovator Tracy Laskowski Miller, is one of the most engaging and creative sleep wellness product inventors in the industry today. She is known for her unique perspective on sleep materials research to create and help people find their favorite bedding products. With more than two million sold since 2006, her engaging brands and sleep solutions are in homes and hotels across the country. The company is a leader in designing, inventing and marketing innovative combinations of comfort and technology to create sleep products and brands including sheets, pillows, comforters, blankets and mattress pads. Tracy is also the author of the weekly sleep blog Sleep Secrets and Inspirations. In it, Tracy is sharing her expertise on sleep materials research and design, and demystifying the sleep experience with an informative and fun-filled conversation on how sleep helps people with everyday living, as well as some of her tips and tricks on picking your favorite sleep products. For more information, visit Sleep Tonight. Create Tomorrow.™


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