BAXTER SPRINGS, Ks. – This Saturday, March 6, Horses of Hope is hosting volunteer training for anyone interested in being a sidewalker during therapeutic horseback riding sessions.
A sidewalker is someone that walks alongside the horse, assisting the rider and ensuring their safety. Some riders are independent or need minimal assistance. Others might need up to three helpers, according to Vallerie Sweeton, Horses of Hope co-founder and head riding instructor.
“We have a pretty good list of folks waiting to start services and we’re just in need of recruiting some more volunteers so we can open up some more slots and keep people going,” said Sweeton.
As a sidewalker, you would take part in changing lives. And not only the lives of the riders – it could change your life too.
The training will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Horses of Hope, located at 6968 SE 20th St. in Baxter Springs, KS.
Volunteers must be at least 18, able to volunteer regularly, available on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school hours and able to walk 30 minutes to an hour. No horse experience is necessary, “only a desire to help our amazing clients and willingness to learn,” according to the event.
To sign up, RSVP on the Facebook event or call 620-674-3458. A mask is required.
Horses of Hope, established in 1997, is a nonprofit organization that provides equine therapy for those with disabilities, at-risk youth and more. Its goal is to provide experiences that will change lives, helping people physically, socially and emotionally.
“We work with persons of all ages with all different types of diagnoses or special needs, providing equine assisted activities or therapy. Therapeutic riding focuses on riding, horsemanship skills, but people get so much more than riding a horse,” said Sweeton. “It works on balance and coordination, some of the physical advantages we see, but the social/emotional benefits are just as great – building self esteem and confidence, making friends.”
Sweeton recalls a participant saying earlier this week that the horse he was paired with was “the best thing that had ever happened to him in his life.”
“So for him to really feel that connect to another living being… it was probably a first for that little fella,” she said.
Horses of Hope offers a traditional, therapeutic riding and horsemanship program, but also offers equine assisted mental health help. This program uses a licensed, credentialed therapist to work on mental health objectives and improve the participant’s well-being.
Other programs include education for school children and activities to improve communication, problem-solving and more within a workplace.
The programs offered by Horses of Hope rely on the help of volunteers and donations. With significant fundraisers being canceled due to the pandemic, the nonprofit was hit hard financially.
Horses of Hope also has locations in Miami, OK, and Rogersville, MO.