Celebrating a dedication to miracles
By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer
Pictured: Photo by Carolyn Edwards
Kathy Harbaugh, director of Triple H Equitherapy in Pipe Creek, receives a plaque from Beth Weaver at her surprise anniversary party Friday, Feb. 14.
Long-time HHH volunteer Barbara Roach and Assistant Director Laura Berlin congratulate Kathy Harbaugh on her 19th anniversary as leading light of the equitherapy facility.
Alma Aquirre, Ruth Reebel and JoAnn Strayer enjoy reminiscing with a scrapbook about Kathy Harbaugh's work at Triple H Equitherapy for 19 years.
This poster on the wall at HHH says it all: My therapist lives in a barn.
One word kept popping up during a surprise anniversary party in honor of Kathy Harbaugh at Triple H Equitherapy last Friday, Feb. 14, 'Miracle'. Friends, staff and volunteers told story after story, and so many times they concluded by saying, "It was a miracle!"
During 19 years of caring service to clients and the horses they ride, Harbaugh has played a role in creating those miracles in so many lives.
According to husband, Kent, when he retired he told his wife "the first 30 years was mine, now the next 30 are yours!"
Taking him up on the offer, driven by a love of horses and a desire to serve, Kathy started a horse therapy center near their home in Alabama. A need to care for a parent led to the couple's move to Texas and the small ranch in Pipe Creek.
It is there that the miracles occur. Equitherapy has been proven to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of people of all ages who are facing challenges in any or all of those areas. The center works with children as young as five or six to any age adult.
Many of the clients have severe mental or physical challenges. With the dedication of scores of volunteers, all are given a chance to make an attachment with a horse, to learn to guide it around the arena or along the ranch's trails, and to develop the strength that comes from sitting in a saddle.
Harbaugh, overcome with emotion as guests shared stories, made it clear that "none of this could have happened without all of you volunteers."
Friend and long-time volunteer Alison Ramos talked about a child who came to the center with severe autism, never speaking, fearful. "Kathy put the reins of a horse in her little hand and told her to walk the horse across the arena.
"All of her teachers came running out saying that will never work, but the girl started to walk and eventually made her way to the other side.
"Then she turned around, looked at everybody and broke into the biggest grin we've ever seen!"
There was that pause. Then came, "It was a miracle!"
Barbara Roach, who volunteered so early on in the history of the place that she pitched in with the office work on Harbaugh's kitchen table. She came to HHH because her daughter Melissa was terminally ill. "She was in a wheelchair and Kathy said she didn't have a ramp. So we built a ramp."
After Melissa's death, Roach continued to volunteer. "It was healing for me to be here and work with the kids and the horses."
Harbaugh has brought in Laura Berlin to serve as assistant director as she relinquishes some of the paperwork and other organizational duties. "I want to spend my time now just working with the horses," said Harbaugh. "And I have grandchildren I want to spend more time with."
Other guests lauded Harbaugh's vision and accomplishments while acknowledging her strong personality. "She's meticulous," one said. "She's persnickety," chimed in another. "Let's be honest," said Keisha Laughy, "Kathy is stubborn!"
Among other gifts, she was presented with a plaque that portrayed a quote from her mother that said, "Kathy has always done mostly what she pleases. Sometimes she's right."
She was honored as a person who says, "The phrase 'I can't' isn't in my vocabulary."
One speaker said, "She's one of the best five people I've known in my life."
Thanking everyone for the good food, the kind words and the warm fellowship, Harbaugh said, "We wanted a quiet healing place for any person or horse who came. It's also been a healing place for the volunteers and staff, too."
Nineteen years and counting. Who knows how many miracles have occurred?
Who knows how many are yet to come?