The path leading to the formation of the Horse Power Healing Center, a therapeutic riding facility near Eagle, has been a long and circuitous one for founder Linda Konichek.
“Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, I watched the Cisco Kid and Roy Rogers on TV and was awed by the powerful relationship I saw between man and horse,” Konichek said. “Like so many girls, I wanted a horse of my own, but we lived in Milwaukee and that wasn’t possible.”
Over the coming years, Konichek graduated from college, married and taught English in Texas while her husband, Norm, served in the military. The couple eventually returned to Wisconsin.
“We decided to settle in Genessee, and our two children, Matthew and Wendy, were born,” she said.
Yet the dream of a rural lifestyle — one that included horses — remained, and in 1984, the Konicheks moved to a 114-acre farm outside the village of Eagle, southwest of Waukesha. On Wendy’s 12th birthday, the family constellation grew to include a small, gray Morab mare by the name of Ta-Ket (Taco).
“Little did we know that Taco would change all our lives,” Konichek said.
Indeed, the little mare was a marvel, and for the next three years, Taco learned everything put before her, including barrel racing, penning and Western Pleasure — plus, her temperament could not be faulted.
“The more we learned about the Morab breed, the more we came to value their many positive qualities, including intelligence, durability and friendly disposition,” Konichek said. “Morabs exhibit the best of both the Arabian and Morgan breeds.
“Wendy and I agreed that we wanted to raise Morabs; and in 1986, Taco delivered her first foal, Chaheetah,” she said.
Determined to spread the word of the “magnificent Morab,” in 1987, the Konicheks became founding members of the International Morab Breeders’ Association, and Linda was appointed director of the Morab demonstration at the Midwest Horse Fair that same year. The abilities of the crossbreed horse with the heart of gold had taken Konichek and her daughter full circle.
Yet there was still a great deal more to come.
“Wendy became interested in therapeutic riding after high school when she worked with special-needs children and later as a home health aide with mentally and physically challenged individuals,” Konichek said. “She had always believed that therapeutic riding had a great deal to offer.”
First used in Germany to address orthopedic dysfunction such as scoliosis, the use of therapeutic riding has, over the years, become an accepted treatment option for a large number of personal challenges, including multiple sclerosis, Down syndrome, autism and depression; the modality has been shown to not only improve physical coordination and cognitive abilities but to enhance social skills and communication.
In 2006, Wendy began attending seminars at the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association as a preliminary to obtaining certification as a therapeutic riding instructor. In April 2010, the Horse Power Healing Center became a nonprofit corporation, and on May 22, 2010, they held their official opening.
“We started with seven students in individual classes with two trained side-walkers on each side, something we always insist upon to ensure safety,” Konichek said. “Since then, we’ve developed additional programs, including Horses for Hope for terminally ill children and adults and Horses for Heroes for veterans, military families, firefighters/EMTs, law enforcement officers, nurses and special-needs teachers.
“Our Equine-Assisted Learning Lesson Program is also available to anyone diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, stroke, depression, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and all levels of the autism spectrum,” she said. “Non-riders can participate with activities such as grooming, horse handling and horse care knowledge.”
From its inception, the Horse Power Healing Center’s mission has been to provide children and adults with physical, mental or emotional changes with healing empowerment through horses. It’s a mission they have been accomplishing since the center’s beginning and one they are determined to continue meeting in the future.
For more information about the Horse Power Healing Center, contact Linda or Wendy Konichek at 262-594-3667 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information also is available at www.horsepowerhealingcenter.com.