At the age of 5, Helen Messenger decided to run away. It wasn't the lure of Hollywood stardom or the call of the big city that drew her: it was the gentle demeanor of a horse pulling a wagon full of goods for sale. After that first encounter, Messenger's passion for horses melded with her eventual career as a pediatric nurse working with children and adults with special needs. As the president and founder of Mesa Vista Therapeutics (MVT), she introduces people of all ages and abilities to the joys of horseback riding. Messenger has partnered with veterinarian Dr. Courtney Belden, equine enthusiast Caitlin Woolwine, and massage therapy and acupuncture practitioners who cater to the needs of both horses and humans.
At MVT's SAS Center—a riding facility with an outdoor arena, indoor ring, 20 stalls, and two viewing areas—instructors train people with and without conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, and spinal-cord injuries in the basics of riding. Therapeutic lessons help to improve riders' range of motion, muscle tone, balance, and self-confidence. The MVT program has participated in Special Olympics Virginia and Therapeutic Riding Association of Virginia horse shows, and is a North American Riding for the Handicapped Association–certified center.
The team also offers advanced instruction in hunter-seat, dressage, and Western riding, as well as boarding services for horses or motorcycles with active imaginations. As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the compassionate team relies upon the generosity of volunteers and community donors.