BGSU Grad Creates MagnaHalter for Riders with Disabilities

Sara Yarger’s invention promotes independence

Sara Yarger can’t remember exactly when she developed a passion for working with individuals with special needs, a thread woven throughout her life. Looking back, Sara recalls being designated to accompany another young girl to church on Sundays and befriending another child at daycare with special needs. Now a college graduate with a degree in Special Education from Bowling Green State University, Sara worked her way from Paraprofessional to Intervention Specialist at Ohio Virtual Academy.

Aside from developing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and teaching, Sara has spent the past six years developing a horse halter that enhances accessibility for participation in equine recreation and hippotherapy. MagnaHalter has a magnet and bracket instead of a snap or buckle that allows individuals with fine motor limitations to remove and place the halter independently. The magnet and bracket also make it easier to use the halter in cold temperatures or while wearing gloves.

Equine therapy— a treatment that uses the bond between people and horses to promote healing— offers benefits such as decreased anxiety, improved self-esteem and communication. Hippotherapy, which focuses specifically on physical healing, can be used for speech, as well as occupational and physical therapy by individuals who have a variety of conditions such as learning disabilities, Cerebral Palsy or Traumatic Brain Injury. 

Going back to her roots

At the age of 12, Sara began to show horses with her 4-H club. After completing all available horse programs through 4-H, she showed horses and also became an advisor, teaching others about riding and horse care. “My experience in 4-H truly laid the foundation for who I am today. It taught me the leadership skills I needed.” Sara says.

During college, Sara rode for the BGSU Western Equestrian Team. The team participated in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association competitions throughout the region. Sara also volunteered at Serenity Farm Equestrian Center in Luckey prior to their October 2021 closing. It was during her time in 4-H and volunteering that Sara noticed how many people were struggling with limitations of fine motor skills, detracting from their ability to halter horses on their own.

Hatching new ideas

The journey for inventing and producing the MagnaHalter began in an assistive technology class at BGSU where students had to design and develop a product. After completing the class, Sara was chosen to be one of eight students to present her idea at The Hatch. “The Hatch is a Shark Tank-style forum where BGSU students and alumni have two minutes to present their products to a room of alumni who are there to serve as investors,” she explains.

After having several investors make offers, one man, Ed Reiter, stood up and offered to invest $10,000 in her product with no equity required in return. The MagnaHalter went through three rounds of testing by Serenity Farms and other equine centers located through PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) International, which allowed the product to be tested in 20 states. Sara also collaborated with Healing Strides Therapeutic Center in Virginia and the US Equestrian Federation of Excellence, working with people who are training for the Paralympics. One of MagnaHalter’s biggest supporters is Heather Smith, Para Reining gold medalist. 

Sara’s business partner, Mark West, gave her the rest of the investment she needed to create the product. With all manufacturing done in the USA, MagnaHalter is currently sold online and in two brick-and-mortar stores, one in South Carolina and the other in Texas. Halters have been donated to equestrian centers and competitors. Sara and her husband, Trey, also sell the halter at various events and shows. “Trey comes to every show with me and carries a lot of heavy things and he helps me with assembling. I literally could not do this without his support.”

Halters can be purchased through
MagnaHalter.com.