Our Story

Horses with Hearts is Lindsey’s legacy.

In 1999, Kay Barkwill had an unexpected opportunity to meet the most amazing young lady, Lindsey Connelly. She was only eight years old and had just gone through surgery for a cancerous tumor on her brain stem. The effects of the surgery left this once very healthy and vital child, blind and in a wheelchair barely able to move most of her body. As Kay got to know Lindsey, her heart was overwhelmed by Lindsey’s love and unwavering determination to live life to its fullest despite her circumstances. Prior to her illness, Lindsey loved to ride. It became clear to Kay that there had to be a way to allow her to ride again. After teaming up with Cathy Dodson and hours of research the dream was born. The dream that would allow Lindsey and others with special challenges to experience the joy and growth they could gain through the interaction with gentle yet big-hearted horses. Today their dream is a reality.

Horses with Hearts (HwH) received its non-profit status from the IRS in Nov 2005 and is now a 501(c)3 organization. The program started with one horse and one rider.  In March 2006, Lindsey, who moved to NC, was diagnosed with another cancerous tumor. Lindsey died in July 2006. They never got her on the horse but because of the example she set before them, Horses with Hearts has grown to serving over 40 individuals each year since 2012.

DSC_0522From the creation of Horses with Hearts, we have looked further than we could see.  We have looked forward to the day when we would have a forever home.  In 2014, Trinity UM Church joined the dream and donated nearly 31 acres of their land located at 1952 Files Cross Road in Martinsburg, WV.  Numerous volunteers have invested time and energy in preparing the land for the horses and arena, removing rocks, installing and painting fences, installing lights and water.  In 2016, the Women Investing in Shepherd (WISH) provided a grant for a handicapped accessible restroom on the farm and Bucky Hess donated 2 years’ lease of a farm tractor.  These community-wide first steps began the journey of making the dream a reality.

The efforts to turn this dream into a reality continue:  with ongoing support of the community, we will become a full time program. This will allow us to have a facility that will enable individuals to come and enjoy equine activities 12 months a year. Children will learn to smile when they  participate in the program as part of their school day. Veterans regaining their confidence. Seniors having a place to feel young again. Over 200 individuals lives will be changed forever every semester. We hope you will join us in this journey.

HwH is a PATH International Certified Member Center with four PATH Intl. Certified Riding Instructors. Cathy Dodson is the lead instructor and has held PATH Intl Instructor Certification since October 2007.

Lindsey created smiles everywhere she went. It is from her inspiration that the Horses with Hearts motto developed — Create a Smile, Grow confidence, Change a life!

Horses with Hearts is Lindsey’s legacy.

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