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Hope for Hooves

Providing a place of healing for animals and humans

What began with a cancer diagnosis and a donkey has blossomed into an organization that ministers to both animals and humans in need. Michelle Derrick was first diagnosed with cancer in 2013. During her cancer journey, she felt the Lord leading her to buy a donkey, which seemed odd, but she followed the prompting anyway. “One day I was sitting on my front porch and I realized that I had all this land that I could utilize,” shares Michelle. “So, we had the land cleared, put up a fence, my husband and son built a run-in, and we were able to bring the donkey home in January of 2019.”

A few months later, when Michelle was given the news that she had only three months to live, being with and caring for the donkey brought her peace. Not long after, Michelle knew she was being called to open an equine rescue and in 2020, she opened Hope for Hooves. “The problem was, I didn’t know anything about horses,” says Michelle, who was declared cancer free in 2021. “God brought me some ladies to come alongside me and help me with my vision. They taught me everything that I needed to know and they're still teaching me today.” Hope for Hooves is home to horses, donkeys, and a fun collection of other animals such as ducks, chickens, pigs, and sheep.

“Once I had the rescue up and running, the Lord began giving me ideas of how to raise money to support the rescue and one of those was the Resonating with the Rescues program,” she explains. “It is a ninety-minute one-on-one mentorship program that provides a safe place for children to bond with the animals and with one of our facilitators. When it first began, the program was more about older children and young adults with autism. Now, we have children who not only have autism, but who have also been abused. We also have children who have been rescued from trafficking.”

Based on the application questionnaire, Michelle ensures that each child has what they need to relax and enjoy the session. “If they like to paint, I make sure to have plenty of paint. If they like to read, they can read to the animals. Then they get to walk around, pick their favorite animal, and they get to brush the animal and potentially ride them depending on the case. Brushing a horse is therapeutic… even mucking a stall can therapeutic,” Michelle adds with a laugh. Whether the children are brushing the animals or reading to them, the attention makes the animals feel cared for, which provides for their needs as a rescued animal as well.

Currently, all the sessions take place outside which can cause difficulties when the weather is poor. So, Michelle’s next project is to turn part of the pole barn into an indoor sensory area, which would be available to children all the time but especially if the weather makes outside activities inaccessible.

Hope for Hooves also offers field trips for families and large groups, birthday parties, horseback riding lessons, farm tours, and a location to host community events. “It's a happy place. It's a place where you can find peace and hope in these horses because they really are amazing creatures,” says Michelle. “I also love to see families connect during their visits – seeing the children out here with their parents or grandparents, it brings us happiness and joy.”

For more information on programs offered, volunteer opportunities, and details on supporting the rescue, visit hopeforhooves.org or follow Hope for Hooves Rescue on Facebook.

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