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HOPE: Horses Helping People Therapy For Riders And Volunteers written by Darla Kinney Scoles

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hile there is no certainty as to who first penned these words, there is ample proof of the validity of the statement itself. One can find visual affirmation of this idea at HOrses Helping PEople (HOPE) in Archer. It is at this equestrian therapeutic riding (hippotherapy) facility that students of all ages mingle with horses of all ages and the result is a connection that breaks down communication barriers, strengthens physical abilities, provides enriching stimulation and offers all involved an uplifting experience. Volunteers of all ages are needed to make this magic happen.

>> THE NEED: HOPE has a three-part mission: To provide a safe and enjoyable environment where individuals with special needs benefit from developmental, therapeutic and educational equine-oriented activities; To improve the individual’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social skills through equine assisted therapy; To build a cooperative link within the community through educational opportunities.

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The essential element in each component is volunteers. “There are numerous ways people can get involved with HOPE,” said HOPE Executive Director, Kristen Shimeall. “Volunteers that are interested in working around riders, other volunteers, and horses, can volunteer during therapy sessions. The facility needs constant upkeep so we offer opportunities for volunteers to work with our farm manager on barn chores. We also always have a need for those of you who don’t like to get dirty, doing paperwork, thank-you letters, fundraiser planning and office work. Let us know what your goals of volunteering are and we will make sure you meet those goals.” While many HOPE positions are often filled by University of Florida (UF) students, the facility is in dire need of a more permanent pool of helpers, especially during spring break, summer time and finals weeks. In addition, many therapeutic riders (most often veterans and special-needs children) thrive better with the consistency in their experience that an ever-changing student roster

cannot provide. “Come try it,” said HOPE instructor Fiona Delfino. “You can’t know something unless you try it. It’s so worth it. I come out to HOPE and even if I’ve had an off day, it always gets better here. This place provides a break from the stresses of life. You don’t get money, but you definitely get paid! When a volunteer hears a ‘thank you’ from a rider, that lets them know what good they’ve done.”

>> THE WORK: I personally have served for many years in the hippotherapy realm and can unequivocally state that this volunteer work is like none other. Yes, sometimes you get dirty — very dirty. Sometimes you catch a horse tail swat to the leg or feel a spray of horse snot on your arm. As a side-walker or horse leader, you walk. A lot. Often you even jog as a rider is allowed to trot their horse. If you have a love for horses (regardless of your level of horsemanship experience) you will love interacting with these gentle animals and their special riders. Extensive equine knowledge is seniortimesmagazine.com

Profile for Senior Times

March 2014  

Hope from Horses

March 2014  

Hope from Horses