Horses make a big difference in youth dealing with bullying in school, death of a loved one.

: Saturday, October 29   was a winner!

2019 Newsletter

posted Feb 19, 2020, 12:43 PM by Bobbie Abell

Thank you to everyone who helped us make 2019 successful.
Special Thank you to Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for the grant to install a lift for our special students that will enable them to be mounted on a horse from their wheelchairs! Thank you Cummins Filtration for helping us on special purchases needed to help the riding center run smooth. Thank you to UPS Employees for providing funding for our students needing scholarships allowing them to participate in the different programs. Thank you to the Impact Club of the Cumberlands in believing in us and contributing to enclosing the covered arena ends. Thank you to North Sparta Church of God for constructing the frame for our Surehands Lift. Thank you Stonecom Radio for supporting us getting the word out about our special events. Thank you to the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association for your special donation to our military veteran's program. To those that went above and beyond donating finances, time and energy, THANK YOU for helping us reach our goals in 2019.


posted Nov 7, 2017, 1:23 PM by Bobbie Abell   [ updated Feb 19, 2020, 12:33 PM ]


posted Nov 7, 2017, 1:23 PM by Bobbie Abell   [ updated Feb 19, 2020, 12:34 PM ]

2017 Newsletters

posted Nov 7, 2017, 1:20 PM by Bobbie Abell   [ updated Nov 7, 2017, 1:22 PM ]

2017 spring mannas hana newsletter.pdf

Riding center has successful 2015

posted Apr 9, 2016, 1:22 PM by Bobbie Abell   [ updated Apr 9, 2016, 1:23 PM ]


COOKEVILLE — When Manna’s Hana Riding Center opened five years ago, facility owners Bobbie and Paul Abell had no idea how much it would grow and how many lives it would touch.

“This program affects not only the child, but also their families and the schools,” Bobbie said.

It all started years ago when a woman named Carolyn Acuff started having a strange dream. It was of children riding horses. She had owned horses in the past and her children had ridden them, so at first she just assumed that’s what she was dreaming about. However, she started to notice that the horses and children didn’t look right. Then during one of the dreams the children turned around — she realized they weren’t her kids. She believes it was a vision of things to come. It was 10 years before she shared that dream with anyone.

Bobbie and Paul owned a pair of horses. One day while volunteering with her church, Bobbie witnessed a boy take his first steps shortly after having his first riding lesson on a pony. The joy on the boy’s face and on the faces of his family made her decide she wanted to help more children like him. When the Abells met Acuff through mutual friends, passion and vision combined and they formed a board which created Manna’s Hana Riding Center. The program provides horseback riding lessons for children with physical, mental or emotional challenges.

This past year, they worked with 18 students, most of whom are from Putnam County, with a few from White County and one from Sumner County. They ranged in age from three — though typically five is the youngest they accept — to 39 years old. The challenges the children face ranged from cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome, and autism to spina bifida, visual impairment and sensory processing disorder. They all gain something from the lessons, such as better balance, muscle control or communication needs.

Bobbie’s favorite part of working with the children is being able to witness what she calls a student’s “breakthrough moment,” when the child really connects with the horse and makes strides in overcoming their physical or emotional challenges.

One of her favorite memories is watching a boy suddenly pause in the middle of grooming one of the horses and drape himself gently over her side. After a few moments, the volunteers working with Bobbie asked her what they should do.

“I whispered, ‘Do nothing. Absolutely nothing,’” Bobbie remembers. “I said, ‘Don’t move. Don’t say anything. Just let this happen.’”

The boy finally pulled away after nearly 10 minutes, and his disposition was noticeably more peaceful. There are also cases of children becoming more verbal, gaining self-confidence and seeing health improvements.

Because of the success of the program, the board is hoping to be able to purchase an indoor arena.

The model they have in mind would have a rounded canvas architecture that would be easy to dismantle and move if the need arose. Currently, all of the horseback riding lessons are given outdoors, where they are at the mercy of weather conditions. This past year, Bobbie’s records show that 36 outdoor lessons were rained out. When it rains, volunteers do have the option of bringing the students indoors for educational lessons about horse care.

“But the students are always pretty disappointed that they don’t get to ride that day,” Bobbie said. “It would be a big deal to get a covered space where they could ride during those rainy days.”

So far, they have raised $3,000 toward the indoor riding facility, but will be going into the new year trying to raise $9,000 more. Anyone interested in donating can visit or mail donations to Manna’s Hana Riding Center, 1285 Brotherton Drive, Cookeville, TN 38506.

The center will also being opening up their doors for more volunteers. Volunteers will be able to help with a variety of tasks, such as leading horses, walking beside students while they are riding (“side-walkers”), barn chores, helping with educational classes and more. Experience with horses is not required. Anyone interested should call 931-349-8106 or email Next year’s volunteer training will be held from 9 a.m.-noon on March 19, and mock lessons to help prepare volunteers for the jobs before students arrive will be held March 24-26.

For those interested in enrolling their children, an open house will be held from 1-3 p.m. March 12. Lessons will begin March 31-April 2. Lessons are $25 each, but scholarships and financial aid are available.

“I just can’t wait to see what God has in store for next year,” Bobbie said.

Isaac Snell takes his first ride on Buttercup the minature horse in the round pen assisted by, from left, Macy Coomer, side-walker; Rachel McCormick, leader; and Bobbie Abell, side-walker.
Isaac Snell takes his first ride on Buttercup the pony in the round pen assisted by, from left, Macy Coomer, side-walker; Rachel McCormick, leader; and Bobbie Abell, side-walker.

2013 Herald-Citizen Article by Megan Trotter

posted Mar 25, 2015, 3:22 PM by Bobbie Abell

When an little eight-year-old girl first came to Manna’s Hanna Riding Center in Cookeville, she’d been struggling with spina bifida for her entire young life and had spent most of that time in a wheelchair. After she spent some time at the center learning the basics of horseback riding, her parents took her back to the doctor and found her hips and leg muscles had gotten stronger. And it’s not just her body that has benefitted — her spirit has benefitted, too. “She had always had people look down on her,” Bobbie Abell, riding center owner, said. “If you think about it, people in a wheelchair, you’re looking down on them unless you stoop down to be at their level. Well, because she was up (on the horse); everybody was looking up at her. Her self confidence has just taken off.” There’s another student who had trouble with bullying at school. She came in defeated and sullen, but after weeks of riding and caring for the horses, she is a different person. “You see light in her eyes. She’s acting like a teenager now,” Abell said. Manna’s Hanna Riding Center opened in 2011 for children with special physical, mental or emotional needs. Since then, through the generosity of the community, the facility has been able to get its side pasture fenced through Cloyd Fencing and Centaur Fencing, added new stalls to the barn, purchased more saddles, had a new hay barn built as Briley Scantland’s Eagle Scout project, and gotten a mustang and a miniature pony to add to their herd of horses. When a student comes out to the farm, staff interviews the family to see what they want to achieve and then set a plan into action to get them to where they want to be. Most start on the beginner level with one volunteer leading the horse and one on each side of the horse to keep the student steady. Once this is mastered, they move on to the next level: one horse leader and one side-walker. The next level is one horse leader riding on lead with a biteless bridle. The final level is the student riding off-lead with a leader walking or running beside them. The students learn how to ride and play games during their lessons, and those who are able also work to take care of the horses once lessons are done. “It’s not just coming out for pony rides,” Abell said. “They’re having fun riding and don’t realize they’re actually working those muscles and the eye-hand coordination. They’re working on gross motor skills, fine motor skills, concentration and sequencing.”
Heather Wheeler, 12, hugs her second place trophy that she won at this year’s riding show at Manna’s Hanna Riding Center, while her horse is led by Paul Abell. This was Wheeler’s first time to participate.
Ty Kernea | Herald-Citizen
The program also touches the lives of the volunteers. “I have several volunteers who make it a point that that’s ‘their’ child that they want to work with every year,” Abell chuckled. “They’re dedicated. It’s really exciting to see that bond develop between the volunteers and the children. They’re the children’s biggest cheerleaders.” The center started with six students their first year, doubled that number in 2012, and this year have had 15. Staff expects next year’s classes, which start in April, to have between 20-25 students. This year they had 10 students between ages of 6-10, two between the ages of 13-16, two between the ages of 22-25 and one who was over 25. Out of these, 86 percent came from Putnam County. The majority of the students had Down Syndrome, autism or some kind of developmental delay, while the remaining few had ADHD, emotional issues, spinal bifida, Tourettes or were visually impaired. “ The horses will choose the child, but sometimes we have to readjust,” Abell said. “Like we have a little girl with spina bifida and she loves Corky and she rode Corky, but Black gives her more of the hip movement that we need for her.” Abell is thrilled with the progress the riding center has made so far and hopes to be able to continue to expand. In the future, she’d like an indoor riding center to help block out the distractions for the students, as well as being able to add the Horses for Heroes program, which helps veterans heal their emotional wounds. “ They have to catch their horse,” Abell said. “Well, the horse knows their intention and they know their heart. If they’re angry, the horse is going away. So they have to conquer that anger and frustration in order to get their horse.” The center is always looking for new volunteers. No experience with horses is necessary — just a love of children. Training will begin early next year. The center could also always use donations of funds for scholarship money for the students, as well as gift cards to places that sell feed and supplies for horses, and to places that sell office supplies. Those interested in learning more about Manna’s Hanna Riding Center are welcome to call 931-349-8106 and schedule a visit. “Being at Manna’s Hanna is like stepping into a place of peace,” Abell said. “It is a safe place, a haven where no one is judged. It is where a person can be him or herself. The center’s goal — giving participants the skills to live life with more confidence, self-love and joy, regardless of their challenge or social, religious or economic status — is one that focuses on compassion and understanding, (and) helping each participant become the best horseback ride.”


posted Mar 4, 2015, 9:34 AM by Bobbie Abell   [ updated Sep 20, 2019, 9:39 AM ]

Merry Christmas

posted Jul 2, 2014, 10:42 AM by Bobbie Abell   [ updated Jan 6, 2015, 9:22 AM ]

Paul and I wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and blessed New Year.


posted Jul 2, 2014, 10:37 AM by Bobbie Abell   [ updated Jul 2, 2014, 10:41 AM ]

What a horse does to the inside of a person is truly magical!

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