By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: Jan. 12, 2018 | 3:20 p.m.
VIRGINIA – Reining Hope was to have held its annual New Year’s Party on Saturday, January 6. Due to the extreme cold, as well as all roads to their ranch being covered with snow, they will regretfully have to cancel the event. Not to worry though, their Valentine’s Day party is just several weeks away! “REINING HOPE is a non-profit organization that provides opportunity for hope, healing, and acceptance through our equine and mentorship programs,” said Heather Westbrooks, Founder & Executive Director. She continued, “Due to the colder months and inclement weather, Reining Hope closes down sessions during our Off-Season (which is November to March). During this time, we host several activities/events in order to continue seeing our current students and families, as well as to invite new students and their families to the program.”
Reining Hope’s program is truly unique because it mingles equine activities with one-on-one mentorship. They are equipped to serve children from all backgrounds, whether they are diagnosed with special needs, or if they just simply need love and acceptance. The program believes all children have needs, and that it is their mission to serve them. What a truly amazing blessing for special needs children to be able to see, interact, and in many cases actually progress to the point of riding these beautiful horses. For children with anxieties or deep-seeded fears, imagine how miraculous and life-changing it must be, to work through those fears, and perhaps eventually be able to even just touch or pet the animals.
“I am blessed every week by the children who visit the ranch. Sometimes I wonder who gets more healing from Reining Hope – the students or the volunteers who so faithfully serve. I think it’s safe to say Reining Hope provides a safe environment where children as well as men and women find hope in something far greater than themselves,” said Westbrooks.
Reining Hope is not a certified therapy center, but they use horses as a tool to safely and lovingly teach children of all backgrounds the life skills they need. They work with students who come from many varied and different backgrounds, and children that have Autism (from low to high spectrum), Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Anxiety, victims of Bullying, and several other specific diagnoses. It is their belief that every child has a need, even if it is as simple as needing a new friend. Each student receives a unique session based upon their needs and abilities. “Reining Hope follows strict procedures to keep our clients safe. All volunteers are well-trained and have completed background checks. All children must wear safety helmets when working with/riding the horses,” said Westbrooks.
The charity has a partnership with Fort Lee, and serving military families is very important to the organization. On average, 50-percent of the children they work with are military dependents. Reining Hope also has partnered with several school districts in the surrounding area and counselors refer children to the program. In addition to these two large sources, the charity partners with the Colonial Heights Chamber of Commerce, Colonial Heights Youth Program, Girl Scouts & Boy Scouts, and three local churches. The program is free to all. Children are accepted from all over central Virginia and its surrounding counties.
Reining Hope has seasonal programs throughout the year that are offered two days per week (Wednesday and Saturday). There are four program levels.
The beginner horse program is for children that have had little or no experience with horses; children that have a disability that hinders them from riding solo on a horse; or children that have fear of horses, but are interested in working through those fears.
The intermediate horse program is for children that have been involved in equine therapy or have interacted with horses before; or children that are able to ride solo on a horse, but require moderate assistance.
The advanced horse program is for children that have had at least two years of experience in riding horses, and children that require no assistance for riding.
The rancher program is for children that have no interest in horses, but could benefit from ranch activities such as gardening, crafts, and games.
Reining Hope’s spring season is April to May. The summer season is June to July. The fall/autumn season is September to October. All three seasons are a seven-week duration. There are also several fun and interesting off-season events, such as the annual New Year’s party, with hanging out at the ranch, horse and pony rides, crafts, activities, and keeping warm and having snacks by a toasty bonfire! On February 10, at 10:00 a.m., there will be a Valentine’s party at the ranch complete with pony rides, heart-related crafts, yummy snacks, and even a petting zoo! On March 17, Reining Hope’s building project, Hope in More Hands, will be hosting a Work-a-Thon to raise funds for building the Activities Pavilion. Participation in the Work Day requires a fee/sponsorship. Tasks will include painting fence posts, raking debris, building new fencing, and cleaning tack. There’s a job for every age! Sponsors are needed. Please sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email for more information.
Reining Hope is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. All proceeds are applied to the program’s General Fund, unless requested otherwise. This fund pays for horse care, program costs, maintenance, etc. If a donor wishes to donate to a specific part of the program, such as the Building Fund or a Horse Sponsorship, they may stipulate the choice at the time of donation.
The mission of this amazing organization, Reining Hope, is a commitment of serving the community with a safe and positive atmosphere to build self-confidence and encourage physical and mental growth in the special needs community. They state they inspire a new kind of hope. What a glorious and admirable ambition for this new year.
In the words of Westbrooks, “When God first placed this endeavor on my heart, I became distracted by the desire to look pretty. I wanted a big red barn that looked impressive, but thankfully, I quickly realized that the need was now—right now–and that the barn and arena could wait. You see, children don’t need something grand–they just need the love and respect from someone willing to give of themselves.”