In July of this year, HOPE - HOrses helping PEople of North Florida, Inc., was established as a non-profit organization.
HOPE's mission is:
· To provide a safe and enjoyable environment where individuals with special needs may benefit from developmental, therapeutic, and educational equine-oriented activities.
· To improve the individual's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social skills through equine-assisted therapy.
· To build a cooperative link within the community through educational opportunities.
Equine-assisted therapy came into use prominently following the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where Liz Hartel won the silver medal in dressage. Ms. Hartel went on to tell the world how riding had helped her to recover from polio. The medical community took notice, and therapeutic riding facilities were developed in Europe and in the U.S. As these facilities grew in number, a national organization was formed in the U.S. in 1969, known as the NorthAmerican Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA); currently there are600 NARHA Operating Centers serving over 30,000 riders. From this growth came an increased interest by therapists in hippotherapy , which is defined as the use of the movement of the horse as a tool by physical, occupational and speech therapists in treatment. In 1993, the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) became the first Section of NARHA.
The development of HOPE has followed a similar evolution. In the early 1980's, Katch Heinz began Florida Horsemanship for the Handicapped, the first NARHA accredited therapeutic riding program in North Florida. The program was located at Sunland Training Center, now known as Tacachale. Carol Huegel, registered physical therapist (PT), hippotherapy clinical specialist (HPCS), NARHA certified riding instructor, and HOPE president, was a volunteer with Katch. Carol later developed a hippotherapy program called it's GREAT! (Gainesville Riding through Equine Assisted Therapy), a NARHA Operating Center. Carol began with one horse, three patients, and four volunteers; currently there are four horses and thirty volunteers serving twenty-five patients. Due to a significant increase in awareness of and requests for equine-assisted therapy, as well as a desire to offer more comprehensive services, HOPE was formed by its current Board of Directors. The founding members, who make up the current Board, all have extensive equine-related backgrounds and work in a variety of professions, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and exercise science, as well as in both health and special education.
HOPE plans to offer a variety of equine-assisted activities, including hippotherapy and therapeutic riding to people of North Florida with special needs. Other activities may include psychotherapy, remedial vaulting and driving. All therapists will be licensed, specially trained, and have their AHA registration. Instructors will have, or work toward NARHA Instructor Certification.
Provision of these services will eventually be carried out at HOPE's primary facility, designed to include a barn, a covered riding arena, and rooms for family observation, therapy, and educational presentations. The estimated cost of start-up is $1 million.
HOPE is seeking individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee, to assist in project development and organization. Legal, accounting and fund-raising assistance is particularly desired.
Anyone interested in helping, or receiving more information, is encouraged to contact:
Carol Huegel (352) 332-7322 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cathi Brown (904) 961-9479