Right from the horses’ mouths — therapeutic riding center houses indispensable equine teammates | TheFencePost.com

Right from the horses’ mouths — therapeutic riding center houses indispensable equine teammates

Since 1997, Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center has worked hard to promote and improve the quality of life for all their participants. Up to 160 adult and youth riders benefit weekly from programs that address such issues as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and other trauma, depression, anger management, substance abuse, domestic violence, attachment disorders, grief and loss. The 501(c)(3) is one of Larimer County’s largest volunteer programs.

Also, Hearts & Horses’ 23-acre ranch in Loveland, Colo., houses 26 truly indispensable equine teammates. Following are personality profiles on just a few of them, right from each of the talented horses’ (mules’ and donkeys’, too) mouths.


Hi there! My name is Rocket but I’m no speed-demon. I’m more of a kind-hearted, in-your-pocket sort of guy. And although I don’t want to brag, I’ve twice won the title “Sweetheart Of the Year.” That’s because I’m so friendly, and wonderful around children. You see, following my retirement as a Western competition horse, I let my owner lease me out to H&H to work with program participants. Why? Because I totally love, love, love people. The past several years I’ve also enjoyed some nice trail rides and helped move cows between pastures. Hope to work with any of you folks who might want to sign up for our program! (Bring carrots, please.)


Greetings from Rocky Mountain National Park! Well, that’s where I worked before retiring from my long and successful career up in the park. As a ranger horse, I accomplished such daily tasks as packing out lost and wounded folks. Sometimes my human ranger and I rode clear up to the mountaintops. Just imagine what a great set of lungs I must have, plus endurance of mind and body. My beautiful paint coloring, flashy as a mountain sunset, attracted tourists and accompanying compliments. Since I’ve always willingly served others, just languishing in a field all day was definitely not on my busy bucket list. So I came to H&H, now my forever happy home; and everyone here is my herd.



We are the Hafflinger girls. I, Cinnamon Girl, am one of the longest-running in the program and Hope among the newest. Let us introduce each other to you.

Hope here. When I arrived at H&H in 2020, I was awestruck to meet an older lady, Cinnamon Girl, who looked like my Haffie family members. She’s a pony with a big heart, and an “all-rounder” who works in most of the programs. She loves her hippotherapy riders, riding In the moment, and the veterans, too.

Thanks, Hope, for that nifty introduction. You’re fitting in well here and especially enjoying little scratches behind your right ear from the hoo-man team members. It’s pretty cute, too, how you use your nose to explore your surroundings. H&H people appreciate your interest in them and your sweet disposition. Your ‘shooting star’ face marking makes you look as alert and cheerful as you are!



It’s sometimes said that size matters. Ahem. Well, because I’m the largest in this herd, someone called me H&H’s version of Ferdinand the Bull. I think that was Kathryn Yuma, our development and communications person. She and Melanie Newkirk, our equine trainer, agreed that my heart and personality are even bigger than my impressive body. My appetite is quite grandiose as well. For example, finding enticing flowers that I like to smell —and possibly eat— while out riding. Yum, trail mix! I’m calm yet assertive both when ridden solo or in a group; and always very careful when people are around so I don’t accidentally mash their very soft hooves. Because size matters.



H&H was selected to receive (through a five-month-long PATH International Accredited Centers Facebook voting contest), one of Lexlin’s incredible Gypsy Vanner horses bred at a Tennessee facility. Imagine my delight to learn that H&H chose me, Varsity! Someone at the breeding farm told them that I’m a “go with the flow” type who loves affection but doesn’t demand attention. People occasionally exaggerate, but not about me. I’m a cool southern gent with a warm heart.


ALLIE, AGE 19 AND SADIE, AGE 25 —Anyone who likes mules will love us. My name is Sadie and I feel young as a spring chicken. As hybrids, we mules are usually longer-lived than are horses. Why, I’ve heard of some mules, and our little donkey cousins, who’ve made it to their 50th Carrot Cake and Candles celebration! As for me, I already have a very full memory book. For instance, I was named the 2016 PATH Region 10 Equine Of the Year! Maybe because my gaits are as smooth as riding on a cloud; I’m real patient as I try to understand what my rider wants and needs; I love to be loved and enjoy strokes on my long ears.


Hi! Allie here. I began my life as a strong, sure-footed trail mount before coming to H&H when Sadie and I were donated to the program by Meredith Hodges and her Lucky Three Ranch. We are the longest serving members of the herd. My role is as — and I quote — “a lovely and reliable part of the herd at Hearts & Horses.” I have beauteous long ears and kind eyes.



Did ‘ya see what Sadie said about us long-ears up above? So, each age 7, Paco and I (Levi) are both just young ‘uns. And, we’re half-brothers, minis. Since being donated to the H&H herd in September 2021, we’ve worked hard to become therapy donkeys. I’m the more outgoing, friendly, clever and fun-loving one who loves self-guided tours of the H&H offices! Tee-hee-haw! Unlike bubby Paco, I prefer to be on the go. Wheee!

Okay, Levi, I think they get the picture, lol. I, Paco, am a little more cautious and shy than is Levi. But once a person earns my trust, I’ll be their bff! My favs are being groomed; slow, mellow walks; partnering with people using adaptive equipment like wheelchairs or walkers. BTW, did you notice all my techie talk, like BTW and lol? Levi learns swell abbrevs like those when he explores the H&H offices …and then he teaches me. lol



If you call my name, which is Fiona, I might just nicker at you! Did you notice my wild and thick mane totally enhances my cute and cuddly look? We Fjord ponies are great for therapy services due to our short, stocky frames. I’ve done many great things so far in life: barrels, poles, parades and jumping. I love people, whether young or not so young. My friend, Serenity, is still in her three-month trial here so she doesn’t really have much to share yet. But she’s a sociable, sprightly little gal who’s already won many hearts around the ranch. Say something about yourself, Serenity.


Hello. I sometimes wear a little tiara between my ears. Bye.



SIDEBAR — Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center is seeking from one to three large horses to buy/lease or have donated. The ideal candidate loves people, has a calm and steady temperament, is 15.2-16.3 hands high, weighs 1,100-1,400 pounds, is sound, well-trained and between 8-16 years old. If you or someone you know has such an available horse, please visit http://www.heartsandhorses.org/ourherd, email Lisa Rakow, director Of equine services at Lisa@HeartsAndHorses.org or call her at (970) 663-4200. For general information, visit http://www.HeartsAndHorses.org.


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