Gabe riding Torch receiving his Gold Medal with Shelly, Kaitlyn and Chelsea.
By Laurie Gordon NEWTON - Judy Heim had a dream of owning a horse farm where children could learn riding. Her family had lived near the shores of Paulins Kill Lake, in Sussex County, since 1950, and she'd been involved with equines since early childhood, enthralled by their grace and strength. In 1980, she and her husband realized Heim's vision of a horse farm, in St. Augustine, Florida, where her husband had been transferred by his employer. “As much as I liked life in Florida, I did miss my Sussex County, country life, and my family,” Heim said. So, they returned to Stillwater to begin their search for a place to relocate Morning Star Farm and gave a list of important stipulations to their realtor. The couple needed: an old farm house (preferably with a screened in porch), lots of out buildings, a two or three car garage, fenced in fields, and a nice location. The first stop, the former Loadstar Farm, checked all of the boxes and was “love at first sight." They purchased the farm on St. Patrick's Day in 1990. “We've only looked forward,” Heim said. “Our passion is serving the families in our community.” Heim was always a farm person and her late husband worked full-time off of the farm. Her daughter, Shelly, is also a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and her son, Matthew, helps as needed. He also has a full-time job off of the farm. “We had many students that had special needs and we accepted many class trips from the local schools in Sussex County, but it was really Kittatinny Regional High School that had the strongest impact,” Heim said. “They loved to bring their special needs students here and told us we had the perfect place. The riding rings, the great instructors and horses with the right disposition. Their director suggested we become more focused in that direction.” She and Shelly, went to Centenary University for training and PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsenmanship International) certification. That was 11 years ago. The name of the farm expanded to become Morning Star Riding Academy and Therapeutic Riding Center. It has helped those with: autism, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, speech disorders, selective mutism, down syndrome. Heim said that a special connection is forged between those with special needs and their horse or pony helping with social skills and teaching a respect for animals. Therapeutic activities may include grooming, horse care, individual exercises, riding skills, games and trail riding. Therapeutic Riding Begins April 1, through mid-November. Morning Star ends the season with a Farm Horse Show for students to showcase for their family all that they have accomplished. “It's a lot of fun and the students really enjoy receiving their gold medals,” she said. Everyone gets a gold medal. Morning Star, 489 State Route 94 S., Fredon, also offers a summer camp for kids of all ages and abilities. For further information or to schedule a session, call (973) 222-8260 or visit https://www.mstarfarm.com.