Ember — more formally known as “Amigo’s Smokin Ember” — is our 15 year old Rocky Mountain gelding who absolutely adores people. Before moving to Heaven’s Gait Ranch, Ember belonged to Deb & Chris Becker in Wisconsin Rapids. The loving couple enjoyed taking him horseback riding on camping trips with their grandchildren.
After frequenting campgrounds and trails all over the state, Ember’s curiosity at Heaven’s Gait Ranch is unlike any of our other horses. As our gaited alpha on the ranch, Ember is our fearless leader out on the trails, and he sets a good pace for the rest of his herd.
Ember was purchased in the summer of 2016 by Heaven’s Gait Ranch with the help of Howard and Judy Edison; he was the first program horse on site.
Ember is anonymously sponsored through 2020.
“Mac-ee-boy” is a been there, done that kind of horse. Formally registered as “Woody B.A. Hancock,” Mac is a 20 year old Paint gelding who is our go-to guy at Heaven’s Gait Ranch for both new riders and new volunteers. Originally from Wonewoc, WI, Mac came to us from 100 acres of pure serenity. His previous owner Jenell Snyder had taught her children how to ride on Mac, and he proved not only to be an excellent instructor but also a trusted partner and friend.
After teaching many young people how to ride over the years, Mac also showed in holiday parades, and served the Mounted Patrol for the Midwest Horse Fair. Now a permanent resident of Heaven’s Gait Ranch, he serves kids with special needs and veterans with disabilities. Mac especially thanks Jim Zirngibl, Susan Wilson, David Zirngibl, Laura Witt, Mark Zirngibl, & Nicole D’Astice for their generosity in bringing him to HGR.
Mac is sponsored through 2020 by Susan Wilson & Jim Zirngibl.
Simpson is a 18 year old Appaloosa gelding who arrived to HGR from Amberg, WI with the help of Andy & Lisa Munao.
With a big heart that is eager to please, Simpson loves affection from his trusted handlers. Having always been at the bottom of the pecking order in the herd, Simpson floats from one social circle to the next, waiting for his true friends to come to the ranch: the riders. Because he has had a hard time making friends with some of the other horses on the ranch, Simpson particularly enjoys his humans who give him their undivided attention. With a little love from new friends, Simpson is happy to have a job serving individuals with disabilities in our equine-assisted activities and programs.
Simpson is sponsored through 2020 by Helene Meyer.
Formally registered with the National Spotted Saddle Horse Association, Inc., Ellie is formally known as Drifters Midnight Eclipse. As our 25 year old Paint & Tennessee Walker, Ellie Mae is proud to be the first female therapy horse at Heaven’s Gait Ranch. Although all the boys love her, she is a smart girl who keeps her cool, which is why everyone at the ranch adores her. A quick learner with a gentle spirit, we think Ellie was born to be a therapy horse. Generously donated to our therapeutic riding program by her owner Cheri Eberhardy, Ellie Mae loves teaching children how to ride, and standing tall at just 14.3 hands, she is the perfect fit. Every day at the ranch Ellie proves she is an old soul who is still young at heart, and with so much more to give, Heaven’s Gait Ranch is blessed to have her as part of our therapeutic riding program.
Ellie Mae is sponsored by Ella Jors & Family through 2020.
Windy is a 17 year old Palomino Appaloosa mare who is a rockstar for both our kids with special needs and veterans with disabilities. Standing 15hh with an impressive head set, she was generously donated to serve as a therapy horse in December 2018 by Kim and Kendall Floryance, with the hopes that she would serve our veterans. Windy comes to us from East Troy, WI and has been ridden both English and Western. Earlier in her life she even dabbled in dressage. Nevertheless, after learning Windy had “more woah than go,” her previous owners thought she might be a good fit for therapeutic riding, and we are now blessed to have her join our team in Cedar Grove. Windy especially loves to be groomed, and she appreciates handlers who take the time to get to know her from the ground up. Since Heaven’s Gait Ranch has become her forever home, Windy has settled in nicely, and she’s become our beloved blonde on site.
Windy is sponsored through 2020 by Helene Meyer.
As a delightful, 18 year old Quarter Horse gelding, Rufus came to us through the generosity of the Gottsacker Family. After previously serving as a therapy horse at Free S.P.I.R.I.T. Riders, Inc. in Fond du Lac, Rufus came to Heaven’s Gait Ranch after his previous place of employment sadly closed in 2018. Because he already served individuals with special needs for a number of years, he quickly acclimated to his new home in Cedar Grove and job at Heaven’s Gait Ranch. Impeccably trained by Lori Gottsacker herself, Rufus just loves to make his riders smile by showing off his tricks. He can shake, fetch, hug, kiss, and give a heart-warming smile on cue. For all these reasons and more, we are so grateful Rufus has joined our team.
Rufus is anonymously sponsored through 2020.
When you pull into Heaven’s Gait Ranch, it’s easy to spot our beautiful, Percheron-Paint cross gelding named Lucero. Immediately, visitors are drawn to his presence in the pasture, and it’s easy to see why.
Formerly owned by Georgia and Scott LaBrosse in Shawano, WI, Lucero was generously purchased and donated by Mark and Karen Reed in the fall of 2020, with the intention to serve our veterans in HGR’s Equine Services for Heroes program. With a custom-built saddle, standing broad and tall over 16 hands high, Lucero is an 18 year old gentle giant who loves forming bonds with his handlers and riders.
Lucero is anonymously sponsored through 2020.
Former Therapy Horses at Heaven’s Gait Ranch
Denali (aka “Levi”) — Retired
Denali is an 19 year old Morgan gelding who was commonly known around the barn as “Levi.” Because Morgans were historically bred to be cavalry mounts, their breed is known for its high intelligence and endurance. Always curious yet also alert and willing, Levi loved positive reinforcement from his riders, and it wouldn’t take long for him to start searching your pockets for little goodies once you met him.
Before coming to Heaven’s Gait Ranch, Levi was trained in a variety of disciplines. From hunt seat, English, dressage, and cross country/stadium events to trail riding, driving, and showing saddle seat, Levi saw it all. Leased by our therapeutic riding program while his owner Samantha Vian was away at college, Levi served Heaven’s Gait Ranch from October 2016 – May 2019. He developed special bonds with his riders with Down Syndrome, dementia, and speech & hearing impairments, just to name a few.
Thank you, Samantha Vian, for sharing such a special part of your life with us, and thank you to the anonymous sponsor who cared for Levi at HGR during his time here!
Jack — In Loving Memory
Our first therapy horse to serve in lessons on site, Jack was about as gentle as they come. In summer 2016, he was donated to Heaven’s Gait Ranch by his owner Jackie Vana, and he quickly won the hearts of our participants with special needs and veterans with disabilities. With his quiet eyes and calming demeanor, Jack was so intuitive he really moved at the pace of his rider’s wishes which undoubtedly put his team at ease.
Formerly trained for reining, Jack had a variety of skills, so even in his retirement, he had so much to give and teach us at Heaven’s Gait Ranch. From 2017-2018, he was our #1 “go-to guy” when it came to taking care of our senior citizens and veterans with disabilities, and in 2018 he was named our Equine of the Year.
You could see it in his eyes, his joints and muscles, that he was so strong, willing, and daring back in the day, which made our veterans really take to him upon meeting each other. With old injuries himself, Jack was cautious but steady, trusting his handlers and expecting trust in return. For these reasons and more, Jack became the perfect friend for some of our veterans in need.
In retirement, Jack reveled in the little things — smelling fresh grass in the mornings, rolling in the sand after a heavy rain, walking softly on the trail, and engaging in a little healthy competition any time he’d see barrels lined up in the arena. Sponsored by participant Steven Schultz and his family, Jack found a forever home with us at Heaven’s Gait Ranch, and we can’t thank him enough for all that he did to pioneer our programs.