This week, we salute High Hurdles Therapeutic Riding.
This week’s honoree:
Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization that is doing good work in the horse world. This week’s Standing Ovation is unique in that I actually was able to tour the facility and meet Megan Stapley, the Equine Services Supervisor as well as some of her staff and volunteers. We are grateful to the High Hurdles Therapeutic Riding team for being so welcoming and taking time out of their day to show me around. Megan also answered our questions about how the program works:
Tell us the story about how High Hurdles got started.
High Hurdles was founded in 1997, as a division of Suburban Adult Services, inc (SASi) of western New York state. Several parents and professionals got together and began the process of getting us off the ground. In the beginning, the program was very small, with just a horse or two, and space rented at other facilities. Over the years the program grew by leaps and bounds, and a very generous donor made it possible for us to build our own facility on the Sardinia campus of SASi.
What are your current program offerings? How many students do you work with?
Since we opened in 1997, we’ve worked with over 800 riders, many of whom still ride with us today. Our youngest rider this year is four, and our oldest in his eighties. Each year we teach approximately 1,500 lessons, with up to four to six students in each class. Our riders typically ride in multiple month-long sessions per year, so they have ample opportunity to grow their skills.
How many volunteers work with you? Please describe the level of involvement.
High Hurdles has only one full time employee — me — and four part-time employees. There are two instructors, aside from me, and two people who assist with the stall maintenance. With such a small team on the payroll, the most amazing gift we could ever receive comes from our volunteers. We have a core group of very special people without whom we wouldn’t be able to have a program.
The volunteers can be as involved as they choose — some prefer to help with classroom activities, or coming in to groom the horses and keep them shiny and happy. Other volunteers love leading horses or walking next to a rider who needs some support. Some of our volunteers I think are at the farm as much as I am! They’ve become a big part of the family; we’re grateful for everything they do for us and the riders. Time is the most valuable thing you can give to another person, and the time spent by our volunteers makes it possible for us to do what we do – which is share our passion for horses to riders who are as excited to be here as we are!
Can you describe your facility? How many horses do you have, and where do you acquire them?
The High Hurdles facility in Sardinia, New York is comprised of a 12-stall barn with large tack room and hay and shavings storage; it houses 10 horses of various breeds, sizes, and ages. We have an indoor arena and classroom, and are proud to say we’re one of the only programs in New York that has a mechanical lift, offering a more dignified and safe process of mounting/dismounting for riders who have limited or no ability to stand.
The horses in the program are usually on long-term lease from their owners — our program only owns two. We look at horses of all backgrounds and training levels; a horse that demonstrates a curiosity about what we’re asking it to do typically does very well in our program. Some of our horses include a former fox hunter, a young OTTB, a broodmare, a western pleasure show horse and a winning hunter over fences, to name a few! We’re fortunate to be entrusted with the wonderful horses we have, and are thrilled when we’re asked to meet a potential new therapy partner.
Where does your funding come from?
Our funding is all due to the generosity of the community. Though we are parented by a non-profit human services organization, we are completely reliant on donations. Every bit helps, especially when it comes to the needs of the horses. For example, our shavings supplier, Scott Lingle, helps us out in a big way by donating loads of shavings to us on occasion. Tom Mason, who does our hay, spends long hot days delivering and stacking in our barn. It’s people like them who help keep costs under control when it comes to the day-to-day needs of the farm. We also have amazing friends of the farm, who donate tack, equipment, blankets, and other needs to help us keep our horses happy and comfortable.
Anything else important readers should know?
Our current focus is the outdoor arena we’re hoping to build this year, and we’d love to be able to include a sensory trail. If you’re a horse lover, you know how good it is for your mind, body, and soul (and your horse’s!) to go out on a trail ride. We’re hoping to share this opportunity with our riders. Horses are a great equalizer — places you can’t get to in a chair become possible from the back of a horse. Think about it: in a wheelchair, if a log has fallen across your path without a go-around, you have to turn back. If you’re on a horse, you can step over it and continue on. There are no disabilities when riding, just possibilities.
Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected] Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.