Our Volunteers

Horses with Hearts would not be what it is today if was not for our volunteers!! Each one brings something different to the table but the one thing that they all have in common is their dedication to the participants. Our volunteers come from all walks of life. Some come at the beginning just wanting to be around the horses, but it does not take long before it’s all about the participants.

When we started in 2005, we had approximately 10 volunteers. In 2014, we had over 70 volunteers ranging from ages 14 to those in their 70’s. Volunteering does not just stop at helping provide the lessons, it extends to office help, making sure all the forms are completed and filed, developing and maintaining the database and website, fundraising, even cleaning out the arena.

We are always looking for those who want to join our team. All volunteers must be 14 years of age or older. We do require those who are helping with the lessons to participate in our volunteer training.

Currently we hold our volunteer training during the month of March, just prior to our first session. All volunteers new and returning are asked to attend this evening of training. As the year goes by we hold additional new volunteer training to individuals as the need arises.

We are extremely proud of our volunteers and are committed to providing them the training they need to be successful land safe.

If you are interested in volunteering, please feel free to contact us!

Below you can enjoy some of the testimonies from our volunteers.

Cathy Dodson Co-Founder, Horses with Hearts
PATH Intl. Certified Riding Instructor

A LOT OF WORK, but soooo much more LOVE. The idea of Horses with Hearts started with Kay Barkwill. She wanted to help children and adults ride horses; and receive the enjoyment she had seen her daughter get from horses. Not just any children and adults but those that would not normally be able to enjoy horses. The disabled/handicapped, physically or emotionally challenged individuals that would benefit from interaction with the horse.

Kay and I talked about this for a long time, researched the idea as best we could, and went to NARHA (which is now PATH Intl) conferences. Then we asked each other if it could really happen, could we make it work. We said sure, why not? We didn’t know that as hard as it sounded, it would be even harder to make it all happen. But it is worth all the time, energy, frustration, and stress when we watch the kids ride.

The eyes and smiles of the riders (any age – child or adult) can’t help but to infect your heart and make you smile when you see them. Sometimes it takes nothing to get the students on the horses, actually you have to hold them back to make sure the horse is ready, their helmet is on, and the volunteers are ready. Other times it could take several weeks to get them near the horse and willing to mount. But in the end, once they are on the horse, something changes, they don’t want to get off, and can’t wait to come back. The families will tell us that they don’t tell the riders it is horseback riding day until they are ready to leave for the barn, because if the lessons are cancelled it is too disappointing for them. The parents say the student may be having a bad day – physically or emotionally – but that’s no reason to cancel riding. The student will do whatever it takes to get to the barn. We have learned that the confidence they gain from riding transfers to many of the tasks of their life. Families tell us they are more willing to try new things, try things they had given up on before, and physically they gain balance and strength.

I can tell you there are days when I’ve thought, maybe it will rain and I won’t have lessons today. I’m tired and don’t know if I can keep up with lessons all day; or its hot and I’m just not sure I can be outside walking for several hours. Then I get to the barn and the first of the students arrives. They are so excited it is infectious. I can’t disappoint them, and I don’t want to. I really love seeing them ride and enjoy the horses. I have loved horses all my life and I always want to be able to share that love with others. This program gives me an extra special way to do that. If the program would stop, and I didn’t get to share my love of horses with these students anymore there would be a big hole in my heart. Not only do these riders get to experience and hopefully share my love of horses, I get the privilege of helping them to find the confidence and strength to be around this big loveable animals.

When I watch videos of the riders from lessons, their show classes, or demonstrations; it makes me smile and sometimes cry. While I’m instructing I enjoy the riders, but when watching them later it brings up so much emotion to see, that it’s overwhelming. Horses with Hearts will always be a big part of my heart. As a program it has come so far, but has so much further to grow and expand; so much potential. I will always be proud of the start we have given to Horses with Hearts. I think it has made me a better person and given me a new appreciation of my beloved horses.

Jennifer Brown
Volunteer Instructor In Training

I back ride with a little boy named Brodie. He is truly my inspiration. Every time I see him, I get the biggest smile on my face. He has come such a long way. His first ride, he was sitting on the horse and I had to pretty much keep him up but after the first couple sessions, his back was straight and he was sitting up.

Isabelle (Issy) Siebert

I enjoy watching the children, like Sophie, learn to ride and seeing their faces light up when it is time for them to get on their favorite horse. Watching their confidence grow weekly has been very rewarding.

Kelly Dotson

Horses with Hearts has changed my life quite a bit. It’s a combination of things I like to do: Horses and helping people. I always have something to look forward to on Wednesdays besides homework. I love working with the children; they always make me smile. And of course I enjoy the horses! I have been able to meet many wonderful people and sweet kids. It definitely makes me feel good to know that I am touching the lives of children. We are all blessed to be able to do this and I am proud to say that I volunteer at Horses with Hearts.

Bobby Harrison

As a volunteer watching the young man Chris that I help walk has been a blessing for me. He gets a kick out of riding and interacting with the horse. Also it gives him a chance to interact with other riders and the volunteers. This young man’s face lights up when he sits on top the horse. It helps with social skills as well as helping him with his balance.

Horses with Hearts does a lot for many disabled people that otherwise would have little or no other outlet. Proud to be a part.

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