“What a little super star and only four years old,” commented a True Strides volunteer. “Miss Maddie has been a poster child for riding therapy from the first day we met her,” said Shari Mangas, Director of True Strides. “She always tries her very best at everything and with a smile.” She is bit strong-willed and perseveres at whatever she is up against. This has come in handy as her first few months of life required her to be a fighter.

Maddie True Strides

Maddie’s Health Struggles

According to Melissa Hadfield, Maddie’s mom, Maddie was born with a complex heart anomaly. With this cardiac anomaly, they were told it would require multiple open heart surgeries to repair. After five open heart surgeries and almost her entire first year spent in the hospital, Maddie was very weak. They began PT, OT and speech therapy through early childhood educational services and then started clinical versions of these therapies when she was two years old.


Discovering Hippotherapy

After a year of therapy, Maddie’s family was looking for something more to strengthen her core and attention span. They were introduced to the benefits of hippotherapy and began sessions in June of 2014. Hippotherapy is occupational or physical therapy that utilizes a horse in the treatment. Since Maddie started, there has been vast improvement in her core strength, improvement in lowering her apprehensiveness in social situations and increased hand/eye coordination. “The True Strides program has been such a great tool to aid in building confidence and strength. The team has been excellent to work with, and seeing the improvement in Maddie has just been priceless!” said her mother, Melissa.


A Hippotherapy lesson at the Dudley Equine Center

A hippotherapy lesson at the Dudley Equine Center – Camp Courage

A Year of Progress

Maddie started her horse therapy at age three. She initially required a backrider due to her weak core muscles and hip instability. In the beginning days of her riding, Shari noted she had difficulty sequencing several directions, and was unable to hold out the ball racquet without assistance. She was easily distracted and used one word sentences. A year later, Maddie can play racquet games crossing her midline, follow several sequential directions and is able to stay focused and on task for a much longer duration. Her core strength has improved significantly as well as her shoulder girdle strength and hip stability. “I don’t think I could stay balanced and standing on a horse!” jokes Shari.


A Note from Shari

Maddie is a little girl who is changing the world just by her presence. She teaches all the staff about work ethic, perseverance and focus. She always makes you smile and has delightful sense of humor. This little girl’s memory is steadfast, so don’t promise her anything you’re not planning on following through with!

Maddie’s progress is a testimony to good team effort including her regular therapies, hippotherapy and mom and dad’s consistent good parenting of their special needs children. When we put those things together, what we find is that the children thrive!

With that said, True Strides wants to salute Maddie, her brother Brady and Nick and Melissa Hadfeild. Thanks for choosing True Strides. We honor you and your family for the great accomplishments we see in your children’s lives and we are happy to be a part of that!