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Hearts & Horses

Friendship Is Always Waiting For You At The Barn

If you have lived in Loveland, or taken a drive to Estes Park or perhaps Carter Lake, you have more than likely driven past the Hearts & Horses nonprofit Therapeutic Riding Facility just west of town on County Road 29.  Nestled against the foothills of our little town is a haven and place to find peace. Its history and the healing it offers our communities are unimaginable, and yet, most are unaware of the stories that lie within its fences or the lives that are changing daily because of the services this facility offers.

The impact and essential joy of being with horses is that they bring you into contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and freedom. The programs offered at Hearts & Horses are aimed at assisting with healing inside and out and finding a connection to ourselves and within nature. To witness first-hand the difference their therapies can make in the lives of those with disabilities, cognitive decline, or traumas is transformational and humbling. Their motto is “Two feet move our body. Four feet move our soul.” This rings true as they can see the peace that is found through the interactions each soul experiences while connecting with their horses. The trainers and therapists working these programs know that the animals can bring about a calmness that those struggling with mental health sometimes lack and that these therapies are able to give them a gift that they cannot always find within their own storms. 

The reason their equine riding therapy is so effective for those with disabilities is that the natural movement or gait of a horse simulates the human walking movement in a way that cannot be replicated mechanically. This equine-assisted activity is designed to aid those with disabilities in promoting strength, helping develop balance, increasing flexibility, improving coordination, and helping their breathing; not to mention the mental and social benefits it enhances including improving social and coping skills and helping build self-confidence. While riding, participants must make constant postural adjustments to maintain their balance, which in turn increases their overall orientation and body awareness. 

In terms of trauma, the experience of riding and taking care of the horses that the participants get to be involved in shows them what choice looks like. That the horses are willingly engaging with them, and they are not trapped into that experience, displays for participants that they can mirror that choice in their own lives and their own healing journeys. Caring for and learning responsibility for another creature’s soul helps them treat themselves in the same manner. This is incredibly powerful in helping them learn to respect limits and establish boundaries of their own for them to grow and heal. From horses, you not only learn about the horse itself, but about yourself and about life.

On top of their therapeutic riding program, they also feature several other services available to the community that offer connection, healing, and growth. Some of these services include but are not limited to, a therapy service program, a program for at-risk youth, a veteran’s program, services aimed at helping elders with memory and dementia development, equine therapy educational courses, and they also host retreats and outreach groups. They also host an annual fundraising gala called The Lucky Hearts Gala, held this year on September 28th. 

Originally started in January of 1997 by a small group of volunteers, Hearts & Horses was aimed at replacing a local therapeutic riding center that had dissolved. Through local donations they began classes in August of 1997, leasing facilities at now nearby Ellis Ranch. Aiming to have their own land and facilities to operate out of in the future, they began focusing on a long-term plan to gain capital. In the fall of 1998, the current ranch property became available for purchase. Through much research and hard work on the best financing options for the organization, there was a lease-purchase contract put together with a local developer. Hearts & Horses moved into its own facility on June 8th of 1999 and through the determination and perseverance of staff, volunteers, and community members, Hearts & Horses 23 acres officially became mortgage-free in May of 2016. 

Their growth is continual, beginning with only a handful of volunteers and 64 participants, Hearts & Horses now services over 800 participants annually with the help of over 1600 volunteers. Their volunteer program is one of the largest in Larimer County, speaking volumes about the power of the healing medicine offered within their 23-acre home.

However, if you speak with any of the staff or volunteers at Hearts for Horses, they will tell you that the real heroes of the organization are the animals themselves. They share with us that the horses see the real you, and that being seen can be incredibly healing. They know that the horses listen to what is not spoken, to what lies in the heart, and they reflect that back to us, they let us hear the longing of our soul. Every horse carries the wisdom of healing within its heart, and they offer that healing to any human who possesses the humility to listen.


 

“Two feet move our body. Four feet move our soul.”

The impact and essential joy of being with horses, is that they bring you into contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and freedom

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