Open Arms Therapy (OAT) - Dalhart (TX) equine therapy for the disabled

Mike and Shirley Newman

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Mike and Shirley Newman
Directors, Open Arms Therapy

Mike Newman was born and raised on the Bar N Ranch 15 miles northwest of Dalhart, Texas.   Bar N was a working Hereford cattle ranch and they also raised horses and farmed a little on the side.  Mike grew up raising, breaking and training horses. 

Shirley was raised in Lubbock, Texas.  Shirley grew up as many young girls do with a love of horses.  Unfortunately for Shirley, her family did not own horses.  There was little opportunity for her to own or even ride horses growing up.  Not until she met and married Mike Newman.   

In the spring of 1973, Shirley and her best friend made a trip to Dalhart.  It was on this trip during spring break that Shirley met Mike, her best friend's cousin.  Mike followed Shirley back to Lubbock and waited for Shirley to finish High School.  Mike and Shirley married in September 1975 shortly after high school graduation and then moved back to Dalhart.  They have lived in Dalhart ever since.  They raised two children, Tim and Crystal, and many horses. 

Shirley jokes today that she married Mike for his horses. On a more serious note; over the past 33 years of marriage she has learned everything she could about horses from her husband, Mike.  In 1980 they entered into the adoption process with the Bureau of Land Management and in November that year they were approved to adopt 4 mustangs.  Mike, Shirley and their 4.5 year old son made the journey in a pickup and 4-horse trailer to Rock Springs, Wyoming where they would choose their mustangs.  They traveled through a severe blizzard and ice storm between Denver and Rock Springs.  The storm was headed south towards Dalhart.  On the return trip they traveled over snow packed roads and black ice until they reached Colorado Springs where they finally stopped for the night.  They learned later that the roads to Dalhart were treacherous due to the storm and it was a good thing they had stopped! 

The Newman's were required to keep the mustangs for a minimum of one year during which time they underwent handling and training.  At the end of the year 3 of the 4 horses were sold.  They decided to keep a little gray filly they had named Sugar.  Sugar was the meanest, orneriest horse they brought home but she turned out to be the nicest, most calm horse out of the four.  It is Sugar that later foaled 3 of the horses in the OAT program today.  Bluebird, Chester and Pumpkin must take after their mother because they are the nicest, most calm horses and they work perfectly in the OAT program.  Sugar passed away about 4 years ago at the age of 22. 

Shirley had heard about equine therapy several years ago while reading or watching an Amarillo news story.  It was then that she decided that someday she'd like to be involved with a program of this nature.  Ironically in the summer of 2008, a few years after their kids had all grown and started families of their own, Shirley mentioned to Mike that she'd like to participate in equine therapy and how she felt that it would be good for their horses too.  She wanted the horses to have something to do other than stand in the pen and get fat.  It was about this same time that Carl Bailey saw a similar news article about 7 Star Horse Therapy, an Amarillo equine therapy organization, and Carl began working with Destiny Lucas, a 5 year old special needs girl, at his home.  Carl approached Shirley who was working for the Dalhart Texan at the time about doing an article.  He and his wife Peggy had decided to start an equine therapy group in Dalhart and they wanted to tell everyone about it.  Shirley was shocked and excited when she heard his story; she now had her opportunity - to work with horses and to take part in equine therapy.  She had the opportunity to finally follow her dream. 

Since Shirley's original story ran in September 2008, Open Arms Therapy has grown and now claims a Board of Directors, approximately 30 participants and nearly 50 volunteers.  In addition to the Newman's 3 horses there are approximately 6 others either donated or leased to the program.  Mike and Shirley trailer their 3 horses to every lesson and to fundraisers as needed.  They both serve to side-walk or lead the horses in both sessions, 2 days a week.  Both Mike and Shirley serve on the OAT Board of Directors.  They give much and ask little.  OAT is most grateful for their dedication to the program both in their time and talents and their horses.

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Mike Newman

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The BUILDING, the PLAQUE and the family we are so grateful to ...

Before Mrs. Doris Harden passed away earlier this year she graciously donated $5000.00 to Open Arms Therapy.  Mrs. Harden is the mother of OAT Director, Shirley Newman.  OAT used the money to purchase a much-needed Storage building.  OAT Directors along with retired pastors Chalmer & Judy Wiegman of the Nazarene church met with Shirley Newman and her family on Saturday, October 24th, to dedicate the building.  Family members in attendance were Mike and Shirley Newman, their son Tim Newman, his wife Ashley and their daughters Dakota and McKaylin (both sleeping), their daughter Crystal Rich and her daughters Abigale and Stephanie and Shirley's uncle, Joe A Wilson, who is Doris Harden's brother. 

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