A college project led Sara Yarger to develop the Magna Halter, a halter designed to make haltering horses more accessible for dexterity-challenged individuals.
Sometimes college assignments have the potential to change not only accessibility, but also lives. This is the case for Sara Yarger, the inventor of the Magna Halter. Her prototype for a class project about increasing access to common items has become a halter that is changing not only the course of her life but also the challenge of haltering for dexterity-challenged equestrians.
The Magna Halter uses a heavy-duty magnet to function in place of the often hard-to-operate chin snaps. The simplicity of the design makes it easy to close one-handed or with limited fine motor skills. This is ideal for both para-athletes and individuals who have to halter horses in extremely cold weather.
Yarger’s path to the Magna Halter weaves together her passion for both horses and working with individuals with disabilities. She has always loved horses. She was that self-professed kid who attends the county fair and spends the entire day petting the ponies. While Barbie horses were the only equines she owned through her early childhood, at age 12, Yarger began riding lessons and eventually ended up leasing Roy (Royal King Freckles, a 14.3-hand Quarter Horse). Roy opened doors to her continued mobility within the equine sphere. Through him, she began barn-sitting, and got involved with 4-H and therapeutic riding.
In college at Bowling Green State University and in her early work life, Yarger continued to ride but also fell in love with working with individuals with disabilities. Her experiences both as a Para-Educator and in her college classes aimed at an Intervention Specialist (Special Education) degree, cemented her drive. “I came to know a lot of people who have disabilities as an adult – I wanted to work to facilitate their opportunities to be the best version of themselves,” Yarger explained.
She graduated from Bowling Green State with that Intervention Specialist (Special Education) degree and then attained dual licenses in Mild-to-Moderate and Moderate-to-Intense disability work. Currently employed by the Ohio Virtual Academy, Yarger enjoys helping students attain their goals and working to identify issues and addressing them together. Recently, she has been using Zoom break-out rooms to help students with math problems. That said, her work is unlimited in scope as she and her students work through physical, technological, and cognitive challenges.
In 2015, en route to her degree, a professor asked students to create a product or device that would increase accessibility. Yarger initially thought of creating a jump rope with a beeping device for blind students. Her teacher, however pushed her to include her passion for horses in the assignment. With scissors, duct tape, and glue, Yarger cobbled together the initial prototype for the Magna Halter.
Leaning on Bowling Green State’s resources, in 2018, she tweaked the design and brought the new and improved Magna Halter before “The Hatch,” her University’s version of Shark Tank. Open to alumni and students alike, The Hatch provided the opportunity for funding and product development. With a mini horse named Thunder on stage to demo the product, Yarger found herself supported by an investor with “no strings attached.”
That funding helped to prototype and test the halter. As a result, the Magna Halter went into product testing in 20 states at professional associations like the USEF hub in Virginia, and in an array of PATH centers. Individuals like Heather Smith, a world-renowned Para-Reining champion have also become involved and provided “tons of insight,” Yarger explained. Smith claims to love the design and the fact that people do not have to “struggle with the [halter] buckle.”
With a KickStarter, and continued investment, the Magna Halter is now available in multiple stores and for direct sale online. Yarger notes that the last few years have been a “total whirlwind.” But with the Magna Halter on the shelves and shipping out from her site, she is thrilled.
She is also thrilled about the serendipity that comes full circle, as she will soon be bringing her first ‘owned’ horse home. Zips Classic Harley, a redheaded Quarter Horse with a blaze and four white socks, recently went to work at a Therapeutic Riding Center in Tennessee, but due to unforeseen circumstances, he is now returning home and walking into her life, full time.
Looking back from six years into the development of the Magna Halter, Yarger would have never guessed that a college assignment would have shaped the direction of her life. However, here she is, influencing the world of equine accessibility and watching the shape of her life (and access to horses) shift in accordance with the growth of what was once a college assignment answered with a cobbled together mix of nylon, magnets, tape and glue.
You can get more information on the Magna Halter here.