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H.O.P.E. Therapeutic Riding Program

(Helping Other People Excel)
Founders: Lisa & Amber Meyers written by Denise Conroy

Several years ago, one of our Curlies was sold to a Therapeutic riding program. It was the first time I was introduced to the idea of disabled children learning cognitive, physical, social, emotional and sensory skills through riding horses. It inspired me so much that I knew somehow, someway, I wanted to be involved in such a program. Trouble was that at the time there wasn't anything like that in our remote area. . In 2004 we decided to quit breeding Curlies and just keep 4 awesome geldings. I still I had not let go of that dream. I really wanted to use my curlies for a grander purpose. In the summer of 2005, I was on a STR ride, when a gal mentioned that she was starting a Therapeutic riding program and they needed horses & volunteers. My jaw must have dropped to the ground! I hounded her with questions most of that ride, and came home extremely excited!!! It would be a full year before the program was in place.

It was the summer of 2006, when HOPE would launch it's first 5 day camp. Lisa Meyers, with the help of her daughter Amber worked hard to organize this very special event. They screened 25 horses, with only 12 selected. Cheyene and Reese were both evaluated, but due to liability issues the horses had to be at least 8 years old. Chy easily made the cut, but Reese would have to wait a few years.

Ten children were chosen for the program with disabilities ranging from autistic to physically handicapped. They wanted to keep it small & give each child proper one-on-one attention. Uncertain of how many volunteers they would have, they were in awe when 'every day a steady stream of more than 30 eager volunteers filtered through the barn doors ready to give their time and talents.' Tracy and I felt honored to be part of this program. It was amazing to see the transformation in the children while interacting with these huge 4 legged critters. 'A child who avoids looking in the eye of others will make eye contact when being instructed on how to care for a horse. A child who only feels safe when doubled over will sit up straight when on a horse. A child who never speaks will talk to a horse. The animals draw out behavior that under normal circumstances wouldn't be seen in these children.'

Amber AJ & Cheyene
Rachel Tasha


I will never forget a young girl by the name of Katie. Katie's equine 'teacher' was 20 year old Appy named Tuff. He was donated to the program because his owner felt he had lost his usefulness for doing anything else. His hind pastern had been fused due to a previous injury, so he sort of dragged it as he walked. I would often hear her talking to Tuff, patting him and saying, "Good boy Tuff" and the bound was growing as the week progressed. On the last day of camp, Lisa pulled aside a few of the campers that were advanced enough to do a bit of trotting. They still had leaders and sidewalkers for this activity, but it allowed them to experience a bit more motion and learn to steady themselves that much more. Katie & Tuff got selected. Katie was so excited, she could hardly contain herself. As the horses were asked to trot, Tuff tried hard but his stiff pastern made it very difficult to do this gait well, but he could canter with ease. Suddenly, without warning Tuff transitioned into a few beautiful canter strides before the sidewalkers could respond and bring him back to a stop.. Katie shouted with glee! Everyone praised her for maintaining balance. She reached down and patted Tuff with joyful yet breathless smile. Just then, her mother showed up. Katie unable to contain her excitement, shouted to her mom, "Mom, Tuff & I just galloped!! You should have seen us Mom!!" Then Katie flopped forward, draped both arms around Tuff's neck and hugged him gently and said, "Thank you Tuff, I LOVE you.....I Love you Tuff", she repeated. The sparkle that Tuff put into Katie's eyes that day would last a long time. What some people saw that day was a very old, ugly old horse who walked with a gimp... and took a couple canter strides on the end of a lead line. But to Katie, he was the most beautiful horse in the world, galloping as if in an open field.
A young boy named AJ was Cheyene's buddy for the week. AJ was about 12 years old and had ridden alot in his life. He had been part of a therapy program in another town when he was younger. His mother was so grateful that the program had begun and AJ could be a part of it. She said, "When AJ is around horses, he is a different child." She commented that he needs less medication and his behavior is much calmer too. Chy and AJ hit it off immediately.
AJ & Chy Participating in the Kinross County Fair, 2006 in the Assisted Riding Class Young rider, Brian getting assurance from his sidewalkers.
Amber grooming her halflinger pony Rachel getting grooming help from the volunteers

We all learned so much that week and left with an amazing sense that we had been a part of something wonderful. One man said "I will remember this week as one of the most worthwhile thing I have done all year." This coming summer, they will organize another 5 day camp again and maybe a second if they can get the funding. If you have any interest in being involved or contributing to this incredible effort, contact Lisa Meyers at 906-635-6368.

The following articles were written in the Local Paper and the Cloverland Electric Michigan Magazine. Click image to enlarge to read. Tracy & Chy managed to be in the photos selected for the article. ;-)


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