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Hiatt Equestrian Rescue and Rehabilitation – Bigfork, Montana

Using Equine Therapy to Help People with Disabilities

Working with horses can be very therapeutic – increasing mental health, positive emotions, and self-confidence. Equine therapy can help people with many different disabilities – including PTSD, physical injuries, and autism. The healing power of horses is what inspired Johnna Hiatt to start Hiatt Equestrian Rescue and Rehabilitation (H.E.R.R.). When she began rescuing horses with her daughter, Rose, who has autism, she discovered that being with the horses helped Rose find her balance.

Today, Rose is 16, and she and her mom Johnna are still rescuing and caring for horses. Johnna's daughter Giuliana is also an important part of the operation.  H.E.R.R. now has 3 locations, two in Montana and one in California, home to 35 horses. The horses range in age from one to 34 years old, and are a variety of breeds, including Arabians, Percherons, Paints, Quarter, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Palominos, Pony, and Draft horses.

When the horses arrive at H.E.R.R., they are rehabilitated through the traditional methods like medical surgeries and special diets, but also in some unique ways, such as aromatherapy. Everything is done with the horse’s best interest in mind, in ways that will heal them quickly and effectively.

During our interview, Giuliana told the story of a horse named Dolly. She is an adopted horse currently at H.E.R.R.’s Southern California rescue. Dolly had Cushing’s Disease, and because of a bone infection, she had to have surgery. She also came to H.E.R.R. with a mangled hoof that was almost completely gone. Because of her conditions, her doctors thought she might never be able to walk again. Today, thanks to the care and love she received, and her strong spirit, Dolly’s hoof has healed and at the end of last year, Dolly was able to run again. Giuliana said that Dolly is one of their greatest successes, and though she “took over a year to rehabilitate and a lot of hard work …it is so worth it.”

At H.E.R.R., the horses are taken care of forever, none are adopted out or sold. The horses are given the “most holistic quality of life” and they have a forever home. Many are used to help people, like the horses that helped Rose. The physical and social activity that comes from human and horse interaction is good for both the horse and the human.

Currently, staff and volunteers are working hard preparing for the foals they rescued earlier this summer. They’ve been busy removing rocks from the pastures – making it safe for the foals to play and roll around – and laying new sod so they can be comfortable and healthy. These babies will grow up happy, healthy, and safe at H.E.R.R..

Giuliana says that their biggest challenge at H.E.R.R. is “getting everyone that promises to donate to actually do it.” Taking care of 35 horses costs a lot of money, especially with expensive veterinary care. The staff and volunteers at H.E.R.R. spend so much time and effort to help these horses have wonderful, happy lives. But they can’t do it alone. Donate to H.E.R.R. today to help support the horses at this wonderful organization.


Bigfork, MT



If you are interested in loaning or donating your horse trailer to this particular organization, then check out details of our Horse Trailer Donation and Sharing Program here.  Then, post your comments below to help out!

Also, learn more about horse rescues in these two articles:

Article:  Horses in Danger – The Need for Horse Rescues in the United States

Article:  Rescue Horses – Awesome Potential and How to Help


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