Here at HeartStrong our staff is fully comitted to being positive role models. Our variety of backgrounds gives each of us our own unique niche. Through working together and combining our individual skillsets, we are able to make sure each child feels connected and receives great benefits. We are all very passionate about our work and love to share it with others.
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Richard is the resident Jack of all trades. Growing up in his family's peach orchard allowed Richard to have passion for the natural world at a young age. As he grew up he became involved in many outdoor adventures, including teaching youth kayaking camps, tracking spider monkeys in Costa Rica, and becoming a licensed falconer. While attending NSU’s wildlife and fisheries program, Richard became a top level scuba diving instructor, and during this time adopted a mustang that dramatically changed the way he viewed horses. After college, he became a nationally registered EMT and worked as a medic in Tulsa prior to becoming a firefighter. He is now a fire marshal and loves going to schools to teach fire safety. Richard fills many different roles at HeartStrong as he works with kids doing construction projects, gardening, science experiments, and beekeeping. He is the behind-the-scenes glue that holds this program together. He handles all farm maintenance and keeps equipment running. Through putting in the dedication and constant work to see the program succeed, Richard receives the opportunity to fulfill his greatest passion: sharing the natural world with those around him.
It was after Melissa's family moved to an equine facility when she was four that she fell in love with horseback riding. Her family's farm offered lessons, camps, training, and therapeutic riding. Throughout her childhood, Melissa participated in many different disciplines, including dressage, eventing, mounted games, fox hunting, and vaulting. She excelled quickly in each discipline, and competed at many championships, but found her true passion in the sport of eventing. When Melissa was twelve, Michael and Tiffany Richardson offered her a working student position. She travelled with them for eight years, gaining the experience that would ultimately allow her to open HeartStrong Farm with her husband, Richard. When Melissa was in college, she earned a degree in applied technology and ranch management with a minor in education. Her thesis paper, which was on equine assisted therapies, was published through Rogers State University. Soon after the completion of her college education, Melissa and Richard started their own family. Their children tremendously influenced the way they viewed the world, and they realized there was a need to help bring families together. HeartStrong became the realization of a lifelong passion for riding and teaching.
When Becca was four years old, she and her family moved to China. Over the course of seven years, she experienced firsthand how it feels to have to adapt and fit into a foreign environment. She overcame many hardships and gained insight to a new culture as she became fluent in the Chinese language. These experiences have led her to greatly empathize with those who may feel apprehensive about new surroundings. While she loves working with all children, she found her passion in connecting with kids who are insecure about themselves and their interactions with others. At just fifteen years old, knowing she wanted to make an impact in children's lives, Becca became an assistant instructor at HeartStrong. Through working with her own horse, Reflections, Becca is continuously inspired with new ways to help kids in their own horsemanship journey. When she is not teaching lessons, Becca can be found working with horses and researching new ways to reach kids. She is extremely passionate about music, science, and nature.
Michael has risen to overcome astronomical challenges in his life. One night, driving home from a roping competition, he swerved to miss a deer in the road and rolled his Jeep over his body. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, but his friends that were with him insisted he could not be gone. Through his determination and a miracle he survived the rehabilitation from the wreck and went on to do incredible things. He rose to be a world champion wheel chair racer, he has become a motivational speaker and reached thousands of people, and is one of the most renowned horseman in the country. His perspective from the wheelchair forced him to create gentle ways of working with horses to engage them mentally. People all over the world, including here at HeartStrong, are now finding his methods to be of great benefit for themselves and their horses.
Sailor is the rock of our program. He has quite the background as he has travelled the country as a demonstration horse with renowned horseman Michael Richardson. Sailor has found his specialties in teaching kids how to ride bridleless and in helping jump start beginner riders through backriding.
See See's color has allowed her to be the universal favorite as she is HeartStrong's real life "fairy tale horse." See See is our main jumping horse who loves to use her white coat, resembling a canvas, to bring out the best of kids' creativity through art.
Reflections is a master liberty horse who loves to connect and form bonds with everyone she comes across. She has lived up to her name through helping kids recognize their own emotions by reflecting them herself in the round pen. Reflections does a great job of teaching kids about how to recognize exactly what they are feeling, and how that affects themselves and others around them.
Turbo's small size makes him a perfect introduction pony for timid kids. The children love to groom and lead him around. Turbo is the smallest horse here, but don't let his size fool you! He can jump very high jumps and gallop faster than his larger counterparts.
In 2007, Richard adopted Mustang Sally from the Bureau of Land Management. At just one year old, Mustang was comforted when Richard spent hours reading books to her and helped her adapt to her new environment. She and Richard became inseparable. Mustang's sturdy stature makes her perfect for kids to learn tricks, and she likes to crunch coke cans with her hooves and drink cherry limeades.
Secret's arrival was a complete surprise. In 2010, Melissa adopted another BLM mustang. Unbeknownst to her, the mustang was pregnant. When Melissa walked out to feed in the morning, she discovered that the new mustang had foaled that night. The surprise led them to name the foal "Secret." Secret is currently in training and will one day be a part of the program. For now, she eagerly watches from her pasture.