After only a year, the Horses Touching Hearts Therapeutic Riding Association (HTH) is hoping to expand.
The organization caters to children and adults with a wide range of physical, cognitive, social and learning disabilities.
In August 2018, they started out with four students, said Angelika Egenolf, HTH president and co-founder, but that rapidly grew. They currently have nine and 13-14 more lined up for spring 2020.
“Demand is very high,” Egenolf said.
This year, with the help of the Smithers Celebrity Golf Tournament, they were able to add a ramp so they can work with people who use wheelchairs.
Next year, they are hoping to build a larger outdoor arena to accommodate greater numbers of students.
To that end, HTH is currently holding an online auction running until Dec. 20.
Numerous items have been donated by local businesses and individuals including art prints, children’s clothing, gift baskets, a saddle, gift certificates and much more.
Egenolf said they are hoping to raise $10,000, which would pay for the construction of the new arena.
Egenolf said the reason she and co-founders Markus Egenolf and Carley Vander Heyden started the organization are very simple.
“A love of horses and a love of children,” she said.
Literature on the association’s website lists numerous benefits to horseback riding:
Physically it improves balance, core stability, coordination, strength and agility.
On the psychological side it alters riders’ perception of their limitations and capabilities, promotes a sense of general wellbeing, expands interest in the outside world and self-esteem and self-image.
Socially it improves interpersonal skills and provides opportunities for friendships and developing shared experiences.
Furthermore, it is simply fun and just being around the horses is beneficial, Egenolf said.
“When you see the kids interacting with the horses and hugging them, the connection is amazing,” she said.
And the organization has had positive feedback from the schools.
Horses Touching Hearts is located on Aitken Road, just off Old Babine Lake Road a couple of kilometres east of the Telkwa High Road.