People of Plano: Mia Gradick

Sixteen-year-old Mia Gradick admits she gave up a social life for her passion for equestrianism and humanitarianism. The Plano resident and Trinity Christian Academy junior has been riding horses for 11 years, competes for the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and has a multitude of accolades to show for her hard work. She has been volunteering since she was 14 at ManeGait Therapeutic Horse Center in McKinney, which provides therapeutic riding lessons to adults and children with physical, emotional, cognitive, sensory and behavioral disabilities.

Mia, how have you seen children benefit from riding horses at ManeGait?

A lot of kids understand what we are saying and what the horses are doing but don’t know how to express it. You get to see them develop. I have been working with a nonverbal autistic student for three or four sessions, and he’s already improved so much. It is also so rewarding to see how much effort and hard work you put into a kid, the hard work and effort they also put into it and the horse. It’s a beautiful experience.

The first kid I ever worked with was pretty quiet and wasn’t sure he wanted to come back. But he did and now he’s better than ever. You can see his independence. The goal for the kids here is socialization and physical coordination. There is something really special here and I think it’s the bond they get with their horse and each person on their team.

What experience do you have riding horses?

I am a junior rider and I compete on the A Circuit for USHJA and I show in the Big Equitation. It is the most elite you can do. I didn’t honestly think I would get there, and now I’m striving to ride in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, so I’m hoping to get an offer from a school by next year.

ManeGait Volunteer Mia Gradick // photos Jenice Johnson Williams

Have you learned lessons working at ManeGait that you can use in your own riding career?

The biggest thing I’ve learned is strength and believing in yourself. They have put so much trust in their horses and leaders. Eventually, they learn to correspond trust into relying on themselves outside of the arena. It made me think if they can do it, I can. I am so fortunate. Having faith is the biggest thing you get from this.

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