Around the Water Trough

The Healing Power of Horses & A Story of Hope

Shannon Habenicht
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We are honored to share the inspirational story of Eliza Bierman of Charleston, South Carolina! Within minutes of her birth, a pulse oximetry test revealed that Eliza had a congenital heart defect, and she was later diagnosed with transposition of the greater arteries. This condition is a heart defect where the two arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs and body aren’t connected as they should be and are reversed.

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Eliza’s mom Mary, who is a cardiac nurse for adults, wasn’t too familiar with congenital heart defects so she immediately used the American Heart Association as a resource. At one week old, Eliza had open-heart surgery and survived. Because of her condition, Eliza experienced developmental and motor delays. At three years old, she started to speak when she went to the barn with her sister, Caroline. “We started noticing that Eliza was using more words when she was with the horses, so we kept bringing her back. She is an excellent rider, and she has so much confidence with the horses. It’s amazing to watch her grow and bond with the horses,” says Mary.

Eliza is now 11 years old and attends yearly checkups at MUSC, and she does not need any future surgeries as of now. She actively participates in horse shows and continues to inspire the equestrian community with her story. Eliza and her family will be sharing her story to Beach Ride attendees this Fall.

Join us for a beach ride!

Shannon Habenicht
Noah Moore and Tony Holland

Noah Moore and Tony Holland

Noah Moore and Tony Holland will be joining 1,200 riders from across the country for the 38th annual American Heart Association Beach Ride, which takes place on the beautiful beaches of Myrtle Beach, S.C. from November 6-11, 2019. Tony has been a longtime fundraiser for Team Noah where they ride to raise awareness about congenital heart defects, which affects one out of every 100 children born in the United States. At only 7 days old, Noah had a lifesaving heart surgery. He is now 6 years old and is working year-round with his family to raise funds for the AHA.

Founded in 1981, the American Heart Association Beach Ride is a unique and fun event that helps raise lifesaving funds to combat two of our country’s deadliest diseases. Heart disease and stroke are the number one and number five killers in America, claiming the lives of more than 800,000 people each year. In fact, one out of every three adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease yet 80% is preventable due to lifestyle changes.

“In its 38 years, the Beach Ride has raised $5 million for cardiovascular research helping AHA discover better treatment for heart disease and stroke,” said Sara Nelson, Director of Development at the American Heart Association. “The progress we’ve made in the fight against heart disease would not be possible without the Beach Ride and the support of the equine community. We’re thankful to the community for graciously hosting this unique event year after year.”

Research funded by the AHA Beach Ride has many important scientific advances including drug-coated stents, CPR guidelines and microsurgery. Through events like the Beach Ride the American Heart Association is currently funding $6 million in research throughout South Carolina health intuitions. The goal for the 2019 American Heart Association Beach Ride is to raise $375,000 for heart and stroke research.

The AHA Beach Ride encourages participants to celebrate, take charge of their health and honor survivors and loved ones who lost their battle. The event is the only event of its kind on the East Coast. Held at Lakewood Camping Resort for five days each fall, the event includes educational seminars, the option to camp beachside, delicious food, auction items, fun entertainment like karaoke, and vendor row. The AHA’s vendor row gives your company a chance to get front-in-center and showcase your products to thousands of equine lovers. The AHA currently has a few spots available. For more information, please email

The culmination of the days of fun will be Saturday’s beach ride, a 20-mile horseback ride along beautiful Myrtle Beach. This is a real treat, as it’s the only time of year horses are allowed on the beach within city. The AHA Beach Ride is a sold-out event, but you can still donate to our mission! Visit for more information.

Your Horse Can Be Good for Your Heart 

Shannon Habenicht
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Horses and animals have always had a significant bond, and their companionship is something that could be good for your heart. Studies have shown that having an animal companion can help increase fitness levels, relieve stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boost overall happiness and wellbeing.

Animals can also provide social support, which is an important factor in helping you stick with new healthy habits. In fact, the American Heart Association reviewed previous research that found having an animal was associated with fewer heart disease risk factors and increased survival among patients. 

To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). In fact, horseback riding can burn up to 300 calories in an hour. So, you can smile and know that by riding, you are improving your health. Of course, we’re not suggesting having a horse as a cure-all for bad habits. If having a horse will help you move more, then it’s a win-win! To learn more about how to live a healthier life, visit

Not only can horses help you live a healthier life, horse-riding therapy with music could be beneficial for stroke survivors. In a study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, horseback riding and rhythm-and-music therapies improved survivors’ perception of recovery, gait, balance, grip strength and cognition years after their stroke.

“Significant improvements are still possible, even years after a stroke, using motivating, comprehensive therapies provided in stimulating physical and social surroundings to increase brain activity and recovery,” said Michael Nilsson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Hunter Medical Research Institute and professor at the University of Newcastle in Australia and University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Researchers studied 123 Swedish men and women who had suffered strokes 10 months to five years earlier. Survivors were randomly assigned to rhythm-and-music therapy, horse-riding therapy or ordinary care twice a week for 12 weeks.

Among those who said their perception recovery increased, 56 percent were in the horse-riding group; 38 percent in the rhythm-and-music group; and 17 percent in the usual care group.The perception of recovery was sustained at three-month and six-month follow-ups.

Horse-riding therapy produces a multisensory environment and the three-dimensional movements of the horse’s back create a sensory experience that closely resembles normal human gait.

In rhythm-and-music therapy, patients listen to music while performing rhythmic and cognitively demanding hand and feet movements to visual and audio cues. Researchers found that the rhythm-and-music activity helped survivors with balance, grip strength and working memory. Further analyses of the study results and follow-up studies involving more participants are planned to help determine efficiency, timing and costs. 

Join Saddle Clubs Nationally for our Inaugural Ride with Heart!

Shannon Habenicht

We all want to live a heart healthy life, and this starts as a child!    

Set a date to host your own Ride with Heart Trail Ride or Health Awareness event in the month of June!  We have made it fun and easy to raise donations with our online tool.  You can help your club members set-up a customized webpage with a photo or video and email it to friends and family asking for their support! 

You can get competitive with other saddle clubs across the country who are also passionate about being Heart Heroes. 

The club member who raises the most amount of money will win a package to the 2019 American Heart Association Beach Ride in Myrtle Beach, SC on November 6-10 where 2,000 horseback riders come from across the country travel to ride on the beach to Ride with Heart!   

Set your date to host a trail ride, health fair or other activity during the month of June to show the community that your club is passionate about heart healthy living through physical and emotional well-being.  Participation will include heart healthy living tips you can share with your group!

For information and step by step directions on how to get started, click here.

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This is a fun and exciting platform where your club members can learn about their heart while helping others and raising money for the American Heart Association. 

Get started today!  

Questions? Contact Sara Nelson at or 843-282-2911.