Cleveland’s Own: Victory Gallop

In this month’s segment of Cleveland’s Own, Matt Kaulig was excited to meet the team behind Victory Gallop, a personalized therapeutic and recreational horseback riding program in Bath, Ohio.

Matt talked with cofounders Sue Miller and Kim Gustley about how their organization has been helping children with behavioral and/or emotional challenges and life-threatening illnesses since 1995.

Victory Gallop is a place where children, ages 3-18, who are dealing with many different challenges are accepted for who they are. It provides an environment where they can learn, grow, and succeed through their relationship with the horse.

Fox 8 Cleveland’s Own

Fox 8 Cleveland’s Own is about good people doing good work in Northeast Ohio. WJW Fox 8 and Kaulig Charitable Giving Programs team up to celebrate Cleveland’s Own by highlighting the best of our region in a big way! Each month, Fox 8’s Stefani Schaefer and Kaulig Companies and LeafFilter Executive Chairman Matt Kaulig, share a story about a person or organization from Northeast Ohio doing good work.

To see more Cleveland’s Own stories, or to nominate an organization to be featured, visit Kaulig Giving’s Cleveland’s Own page.

Read the Transcript

Stephanie Scheafer

Each month, Kaulig Giving and Fox 8 will highlight people, organizations, and charities making a difference in Northeast Ohio. It's time to celebrate Cleveland's Own.

Matt Kaulig

Hi, I'm Matt Kaulig. This month on Cleveland's own, we take a trip out to Bath, Ohio, to meet an organization making a difference for kids through riding and caring for horses. Let's get to know Victory Gallop.

Sue Miller

My name is Sue Miller, and I'm one of the co-founders here at Victory Gallop.

Kim Gustely

And I am Kim Gustely, a co-founder of Victory Gallop.

Sue Miller

I was already teaching therapeutic horseback riding, and Kim had just graduated with her master's. So together with my husband, the three of us co-founded Victory Gallop, which became incorporated in 1995 as a nonprofit therapeutic riding program.

Kim Gustely

So the children that come to victory Gallop have what we call the "invisible disabilities." If you would come out to the farm on a daily basis, you would see the kids riding on the horses, and you'd say, "Well, they don't look like there's anything wrong with them."

Sue Miller

So they deal with all sorts of different challenges. It might be on the autistic spectrum; it might be kids with anxiety disorders, compulsive behaviors, depression. And then, we also work with kids that are dealing with life-threatening illnesses. So we work with Akron Children's Hospital, and we also work with Rainbows and Babies Children's Hospital.

Kim Gustely

We currently have a miniature horse named Willie Nelson, and he currently goes into both hospitals.

Sue Miller

Kids aren't expecting a pony to walk in their room. And for those few minutes that we spend with them, they're not thinking about the next doctor that's going to come in. They're not thinking about the next treatment they're going to get. We just laugh. We have fun. And I cannot tell you how many parents will say to us, "That's the first time I've seen my child smile since they've been in the hospital."

Matt Kaulig

Tell me about the therapy or how you know what happens when the kids get on the horses.

Sue Miller

So if you have a child that is autistic, you're out at the farm, you are going to have to touch something that's soft and furry. You're going to have to touch the rubber range. You can have to feel the leather on the saddle. You're going to have to wear a helmet. Many kids who are autistic do not want to put a helmet on. It's just an odd feeling to them. They have a lot of sensory issues. So there's multiple things that they're going to have to be able to overcome to be able to ride the horse.

Sue Miller

We're going to introduce you to Elise, who's going to be riding in your class. Elise, can you say hi to Matt?

Matt Kaulig

Hi, Elise.

Sue Miller

Can you tell Matt who your favorite horse is?

Elise Pearson

Clyde.

Sue Miller

Clyde! Today, we're going to have Matt ride Rambo.

Matt Kaulig

So what change do you see in Elise when she gets on a horse?

Jenny Pearson

It's like night and day. She's like a whole different kiddo. I think physically, you know, we've seen a lot of changes, like with her legs and her abs and muscle and strength and everything. But personality-wise, I mean, she just talks nonstop. She's so happy.

Matt Kaulig

I saw a change. I mean, just lights up, knows what she's doing. It's just it's really cool to see.

Kim Gustely

We now have kids that participated in our program in the very beginning of the years that we taught are now adults. One rider, in particular, is now a current board member. He graduated from high school, joined the military, and came back. He actually took one of our Petey the Pony stuffed animals with him over to Iraq. And when he came back, he said it was really a strong point, his memories of Victory Gallop. I mean, we take a lot of kids who face many different challenges, and to be seeing them grown up and successful, it really makes my heart feel warm.

Matt Kaulig

What I want to know is how can Fox 8 viewers help?

Sue Miller

Well, the best way they can help is by helping us support our riders. Many of our riders need financial assistance so they can go to our website and go to our donation page and help support our rider scholarship program. No one is ever turned away due to financial needs. Matt, you did great today. Thanks for coming out. And you did a good job on Rambo.

Matt Kaulig

So much fun. And thank you guys for all you do. It's absolutely amazing.

Matt Kaulig

To donate or learn more about Victory Gallop, visit victorygallop.org. And to nominate a person or organization to be featured on an upcoming episode of Cleveland's Own, visit kauliggiving.com/clevelandsown. Make it a Great Day.