Healing horses on a mission

Stables Barn

Healing Horses On A Mission

Written by Kathy Witt

Each year, Central Kentucky Riding for Hope (CKRH) helps nearly 2,000 children and adults with special physical, cognitive, emotional and social needs through therapeutic activities with the help of a herd of horses.

With March 1 designated National Horse Protection Day – a time to raise awareness about the plight of horses with a goal of helping unwanted horses find forever homes – it is the perfect time to look at the mission and goals of one community resource that is giving these much loved animals a second career – and a chance to make a difference.

Located at the Kentucky Horse Park, CKRH is dedicated to enriching the community through a program involving horse therapy. The goal is improved quality of life and health for those served, challenging participants to achieve their maximum potential and work together to achieve individual goals.

“Our horses are an integral part of the team that makes the magic happen,” said Pat Kline, executive director.

Program WorkPrograms include:

• Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship for individuals with special medical needs, physical and cognitive disabilities
• Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship for individuals with mental health diagnosis
• Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship for individuals with learning disabilities
• Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship for Veterans and Military Service

Activities are designed to meet each participant’s individual needs, with an aim to developing equestrian skills while working on a defined set of skills. Secondary benefits include “improved fine and gross motor skills, balance, strength, coordination, proprioception, tactile senses, teamwork, problem solving, self-image/confidence, communication, memory retention and more.”

The CKRH herd is varied, with a total of 28 horses forming the equine team and offering horses of all shapes and sizes and representing a variety of different breeds. (Currently, the herd represents a dozen different breeds.)

Program Work 2 “We serve people with many different needs,” said Pat. “So the variety of horses is important when we try to match the participant with the appropriate horse.”

Many of the horses, including Happy Feet and Merrylegs, are donated to the program and some, like Dolly, Bob and Chico, are a “free lease,” which the owners take back.

“Our horses all go through a trial period of 90 days while we determine if they will work for CKRH and if they are happy with their work,” explained Pat. “Our long-term horses develop an intuitive sense for each of their riders and anticipate their reactions and needs. They bond with their riders and those relationships foster confidence and growth.”

CKRH receives assistance from the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Thoroughbred Charities of America for the care of its Off The Track Thoroughbreds. A horse’s racing career may end, but not the horse’s will to work or desire to feel needed. Working as a therapy horse stimulates these former racing champs as they develop relationships with their clients, with Equine Assisted Therapeutic Activities benefitting the thoroughbreds as much as the people they help.

For more information about the important work happening at Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, visit the website or call 859-231-7066. Want to make a donation to this worthy cause? Click here.



Author: Kathryn Witt

Kathryn Witt is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer, syndicated columnist and author of several books, including Secret Cincinnati, The Secret of the Belles and Atlanta Georgia: A Photographic Portrait. A member of SATW, Authors Guild and the Society of Children’s Books & Illustrators, she lives in northern Kentucky.


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