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Hope Equestrian isn't just horsing around

“I will ride. I will fly.

Chase the wind and touch the sky.”

— Unknown

Lately I’ve been considering the invaluable role animals fill in our lives. This year has brought a yearning for comfort and unconditional love to the forefront. Animals prove generous with both, and I believe they’re among God’s most lavish gifts to a hurting world.

This week I tip a hat to the noble horses and those who love them. I don’t pretend to be a horse person, and would prove unconvincing in the saddle, but I’ve looked with interest at those who enjoy a supernatural bond with them.

Sometime during childhood, I got the notion I should give horseback riding a try. I’d grown up watching a parade of westerns with my family and loved the sound of horses’ hooves galloping over the desert. I loved it so much that I reached into Mom’s closet for a pair of high heels and clopped all over the driveway on a stick horse, whinnying with the best of them. I wouldn’t share this with just anybody.

It was a satisfying substitute until I got older and hounded my parents to take me to a stable. I think the name must have been Low Gear Stables, because the horses living there were tired. I don’t blame the poor beasts — being sat on all day by a motley cross section of wannabe cowgirls and pardners who didn’t know stirrup from saddle horn. There I was, following behind another horse’s behind, plodding along, not galloping over the plains making satisfying hoof noises at all.

Then my mount, Snail’s Pace, would turn his horsey head around and mosey back to the stables, making for the hay rack. I tried turning him, but he knew better. He spotted me for the greenhorn I was and took full advantage.

I have a young friend named Renee with an entirely different story. Renee, 14, is a genuine horse person who’s had a great deal of stress and trauma in her young life. She rides weekly at the Hope Equestrian Center in Eagle Point. Being able to ride with Hope provides a calm, reliable experience and has helped her gain confidence. Hope Equestrian is a nonprofit stable providing therapeutic riding for folks with physical, emotional and learning disabilities of various types. The service they provide brings purpose to lives affected by trauma, whether physical or emotional.

“Saddling up on a horse is an enjoyable experience for many people, but for an individual with a disability it can signify much more — a road to improvement and recovery.” This from their website at hopeequestrian.com.

Renee has been saddling up there for nearly four years. I decided to query her and get the answers straight from, yes, the horse’s mouth. Sorry, R.

Her favorite horses are Tuff and Lassen. “Tuff thinks hoses are snakes, and he spooks at every shadow,” she says. “He’s really fun to ride, and he’s sweet. I like Lassen because he has a really, really nice canter, but he has an attitude sometimes.”

Sounds like horses and people share common ground. I asked Renee how riding made her feel and what she liked most and least about her time there.

“I feel relieved and excited and calm. My favorite part is hanging out with horses and riding them. My least favorite is riding English. I’m used to Western saddles and it’s harder to ride English.”

She’s found confidence, learned to take instruction, and gained trust.

“I used to walk with a leader, and now I can canter on my own.”

Executive Director Angie Ballard spearheads the effort along with trained instructors and volunteers. Hope Equestrian’s good work requires a team effort and is supported by the Carpenter Foundation, Rotary International, Lithia Motors and individual donors.

Renee’s experience has inspired in her a desire to train horses and become a vet tech for farm animals. She summed up with, “Hope Equestrian is awesome and is a great facility.”

As they say at Hope to move a horse forward, “Walk on.”

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.