TackRoom Tales

Windridge Therapeutic Equestrian Center of East Texas

Maddi's Story

I wasn't sure what to expect the first day we arrived at Windridge. Maybe a cute little Shetland pony, that would be fun. Maddi was a tiny two-year-old, after all, and had only started walking a few months prior. She would surely be matched to a horse that complimented her size. When we walked out of the therapy room there was a large horse waiting in the arena. I had been around horses my entire life and from my perspective this was the biggest one I'd ever seen!

"He must be for someone else," was my first thought. He was introduced to us, Mac. He was, indeed, there for Maddi to ride. "These people are crazy!!" Despite the crushing fear of my sweet, tiny toddler getting on that horse, a small voice whispered to me to trust the process. She rode Mac that day and it was love at first ride. After day one, after watching Mac work, after listening to the staff converse with each other about every aspect of what was happening we were hooked. Maddi loved "her" horse. We loved the staff. Something special was happening. Maddi found a joy she hadn't had before, a hobby, a skill. Instead of all the things she couldn't do, she had one unique privilege that most kids never get to do. It was hers and it was special. Sixteen years later she still gets the same look on her face when we pull into the Windridge gate. It's not happenstance that Windridge has this magnetism. The facility is graced with staff that have dedicated their lives to giving the horses there a purpose and quality of life that any animal would be lucky to have. That passion pours over into the riders that come and go every day. Everyone there loves what they do and has made it their life's mission to enhance the lives of the people that come there for the therapeutic benefits riding provides.

It wasn't until Maddi turned three that she was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome. A neurological disorder that causes an array of developmental delays and complications as life progresses. Our first appointment with the specialist was an overwhelming list of things she would never do and if she did them now, would eventually lose. One of which is mobility. Eventually she would lose the ability to walk, most likely before she's a teenager. We compartmentalized that info and kept doing what we were already doing. "Let's just see what happens". Maddi will be eighteen in July, and she is still walking on her own. When asked at any appointment what therapies she does, hippotherapy at Windridge is always credited by every doctor for her abilities. Every single one believes that's the reason she still walks. We know they're right. She shouldn't be, statistically she shouldn't be doing a lot of the things she does, but Windridge has given her abilities, a passion for something, goals she was never promised, and a cheering section we couldn't have possibly expected. It saved her life in so many ways. There aren't enough words for how we cherish the horses and staff at Windridge.

We love them all, they are family.

Welcome Spring!

This is a beautiful time of year when new life and new growth begin. Windridge is also entering a season of new growth and transformation. Even through change and growth some things remain the same.

The sun still rises and sets.

The sky is still blue and the birds still sing their unique songs.

Windridge has always been known as a place of peace and inspiration and this holds true.

We all know that seasons come and go.

Embrace with us a new season for Windridge with a grateful and thankful heart.

-Charlynn Bradford

Thin Spots

Thin Spots: “A Celtic term for those rare locations where the distance between heaven and earth collapses.”

Thin Spots: “The stuff we can’t express because it’s beyond the power of language to do so.”

Thin Spots: “To experience a thin spot feels special because words fail, leaving a stunned silence.”

The term “thin spot” is often used to describe extremely special and ethereal places. Usually, the term describes a magnificently built cathedral, such as Notre-Dame in Paris, or an amazing wonder of nature such as The Grand Canyon in Arizona or the ancient, towering Redwoods patiently standing like sentinels within Muir Woods in California.

These places, quite literally, take one’s breath away—and render words useless.

As one stands in the pure wonder of these locations, the rest of the world seems to evaporate. The air is a bit muffled—like the beautiful silence after a snow. It’s an amazing experience—one that defies mere words.

Thin Spots are all at once “a feeling,” and “a spark,” and “a knowing…” like your soul has finally found its way home.

While these are some fantastic examples of Thin Spots—ones that I have personally been lucky enough to experience--my specific list of Thin Spots also includes Windridge…right at the very top.

The very first time I drove onto the property for my volunteer orientation, I inexplicably began to cry…

I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t sad. I was just overcome with pure, raw emotion…

I now know that my soul felt like it had found its way home…my soul KNEW (way before my head did) that I had found a Thin Spot. I had found a Thin Spot that pulsated with the mysterious presence and power of God.

Not being a “horse person” I wasn’t quite sure what to expect that first day, or how I could be of any help to anybody—my “plan” was to observe, ask questions and generally, stay out of the way and (hopefully) stay out of trouble.

I cannot articulate how much I learned those first few hours and those first few days! I was taught a lot about barns and brushes, a lot about tack and horses…and VOLUMES about MYSELF!

Windridge is a lot of love from a lot of hearts. Windridge is one-part hard work, one-part magic and one-part God’s miracle.

If you are there for any amount of time, you absolutely see God’s essence weaving through the hearts and the hands of the people…and feel God’s presence in the pure authenticity and power of the horses.

It’s a lot like a symphony….it takes many different instruments playing many different notes in a differing cadence, but somehow, it all works together to make a lovely and magical masterpiece in the end…

Truly, I think the biggest and most beautiful gift that Windridge offers to everyone— is that of hospitality and pure acceptance. Everyone—absolutely EVERYONE—is welcome at Windridge! It is a feeling of belonging and of being unconditionally loved. Windridge is a place I can go and quite simply, be me.

Windridge meets everyone exactly where they are. There is no harsh judgment, there are no impossible expectations and there is never a question too silly to ask.

Windridge extends a kind invitation for everyone to do their best and join them on their incredible journey…

I will confess, I sometimes purposely stopped my work to gaze into the arena and found myself completely caught up in the emotion and celebration of a rider’s victory over something that had been an obstacle during the previous week.

Windridge is where the distance between heaven and earth collapses.

Windridge is the stuff we can’t express because it’s beyond the power of language to do so.

Windridge feels special because words fail, leaving only a stunned silence.

Windridge, my friends, is a Thin Spot.

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Being a Volunteer at Windridge is...

Being a volunteer at Windridge is therapeutic for me and allows me to come to terms with issues I have been struggling with for many years. Working with horses at Windridge gives me a sense of feeling close to my dad, he passed in 2014 after fighting melanoma of the brain.

My dad had a farm in Ben Wheeler Texas since I was born; we had horses and cattle.

I enjoy knowing the horses depend on me taking care of them with their daily needs, but in return they make me feel complete, like a void being filled. I was unable to have children so the animals in my life are my babies/ I need them as much as they need me.

Since I started working with the knowledgeable staff at Windridge, I've come to realize there is always something new to learn and the staff is always willing to patiently teach me. I am truly blessed and grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at Windridge.

Windridge will always be my little piece of heaven on earth.

Danya Ratliff

Interested in Volunteering?

If you are interested in donating your time to Windridge as a volunteer, board or committee member, please call the Windridge office, (903) 797-2414, Monday-Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Current Volunteer Training

Saturday, May 21st, 2-3:30pm

593 Windridge Road

Gilmer, TX

Already a volunteer and would like to brush up on your skills? Windridge is hosting a hands on volunteer training session.

If you are interested in becoming a please contact the Windridge office (903)797-2414.

Windridge's Wish List

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Copy paper
  • Forever stamps
  • Paper towels (tri-fold & rolls)
  • Toilet paper
  • Gift cards (Lowes, Tractor Supply, Walmart, etc.)
  • Office copier
  • Hand soap
  • Rider Scholarships
  • Horse Sponsorships

Mark Your Calendars!

Easter: April 15th-17th We will be closed in observation of Good Friday & Easter.

Spring In-Service: April 25th-May 1st, Windridge is closed.

Summer Session: May 2nd-June 25th.

Summer Break: June 27th - September 11th

Donation Thank You's

Thank you to all those who have given to our donation box. No gift is ever too small and are ALWAYS appreciated. Thank you again for your generosity

  • Anonymous- Samsung Washing Machine
  • The Holloway Family- Driveway Repair
  • John & Renee- Flag Pole Repair
  • Christian Heritage- Facility Cleaning
  • Ruby Myszkiewicz- Horse Supplies
  • Mac Niven- Mower Repair
  • Anonymous- Texas and Christian Flags
  • Pinecrest Country Club- Gator Repair

Thank you to all of our volunteers who donate their time to supporting Windridge.

The dedicated men and women that govern and operate Windridge.


Charlynn Bradford

Interim Executive Director/Instructor

Sarah Dixon

Administrative Director

Rebecca Gage

Development Director

Chris Stow

Technology Coordinator/ Instructor

Emily LeBlanc

Equine Manager/ Instructor


Celia Bower

Physical Therapist-HPCS

Lindsey Hohlt

Physical Therapist


R. Blake Cammack


Larry Courington


Michelle Holloway


Laura Wilson



Amy Brookshire

Daryl Atkinson

Russell Fisher

Crystal Thornton