This is a really touching and important story for me. If I had more money in the bank, I’d give them a lot more. Maybe I should get The Horseman’s Card and charge a huge donation.
Through the years, it has been my honor to support therapeutic riding facilities in three states. My daughter’s first and most beloved therapy pony, Winnie, meant so much to all of us that she uses his stirrup leather as a belt 14 years after his death. I have a chunk of his mane in my special box. An added benefit of this type of program is that elderly horses who might otherwise be put out to pasture get to have really interesting and fulfilling jobs, well into their old age. The impact of therapeutic riding and of the individual horses themselves cannot be underestimated.
14-year-old Quarter Horse Pilot has been at Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center near Loveland, CO for only about six months. He’s become a well-loved therapist for the mentally and physically challenged riders at the non-profit center, begun in 1997. A NARHA Premier Accredited Center, Hearts and Horses serves children and adults in need. They also work with wounded military personnel and war veterans. Their mission is to promote the physical, cognitive, emotional and social well-being of people with special needs through equine-assisted therapy and hippotherapy. Pilot is a star. His large size, unflappable temperament and willing demeanor make him ideal for work with the disabled. Standing somewhere over 16 hands, Pilot is one of the largest horses at the ranch, one of the few able to carry the heavier adult riders.
“I’m confident to put any rider on him. A lot of horses aren’t as finely trained as him,” says Holly Johnson, equine manager of the therapeutic riding center.
“He’s got a very kind personality. You can just look in his eyes and you can tell he’s willing to try and do whatever I ask,” says Cliff Uber, who has cerebral palsy.
Now this star needs help. On Dec. 27, 2008, Pilot suffered a bout of colic and had to be taken to Colorado State University’s veterinary clinic. There the vets discovered that his colon was displaced. To survive, he needed immediate and costly surgery. As a non-profit, Hearts and Horses runs on a narrow financial margin. Though they didn’t have the money on hand, they chose the surgery to save Pilot. “We didn’t want the reason to be money as to why this horse couldn’t survive,” Johnson said.
The surgery was successful and Pilot is recovering back at Hearts and Horses.
Hearts and Horses needs help in paying the $8,000 hospital bill. It’s extraordinarily had to get funding for programs like this. The families of the people served by this kind of non-profit often do not have the resources to help out. For those not in a position to need the services, it doesn’t seem all that urgent. But the money has to come from somewhere.
That’s where horse people with hearts come in. Please. Hearts and Horses are asking the horse community to to help pay back Colorado State University’s veterinary clinic.
“I think he’s going to help many people,” Uber said of the horse. “And I think with having horses like him, many people will benefit from it. I know I have.”
If you would like to help Pilot, please contact HeartsandHorses.org and make a secure donation online or call 970/663-4200. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Hearts and Horses, 163 N. County Rd. 29, P.O. Box 2675, Loveland, CO 80539.
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