We show up with pitchforks and passion, with Carhartts and compassion, and a whole lot of courage.
We are not slowed down by the blizzards and gale force winds of winter, or the roasting heat and dust of summer.
Day after day, week after week, month after month…adding up to thousands of hours, we are not deterred in our mission to serve horses and riders.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s a tribe, a family, really. I’ve volunteered at a lot of places in my life: schools, churches, as a court-appointed special advocate; but the Hearts and Horses volunteers are the most dedicated, passionate, wonderful group of people I’ve ever met.
We’re just regular folks. Some of us have a lifetime of horse experience, others of us are just figuring out how to catch a horse and put them in a halter. One might argue that we’re sort of eccentric and a little weird outside of the HH home, but here, we fit in. We have a place. We understand each other and the mission: “to promote the physical, cognitive, emotional and social well-being of people with special needs through equine-assisted therapy.” And we dedicate our bodies and souls to it entirely.
Driving up the winding road Carter Lake Road, I can bet every volunteer feels like me: a sense of excitement, a lowering of blood pressure, a gut feeling that we’re probably going to witness some kind of miracle today.
And when we step out of our cars, it’s like we step into a cocoon of support and kindness and passion. We hear the leaves rustling in the giant cottonwood trees and the sound of horses whinnying for their breakfast. We hear children laughing as their parents round them up for their lesson and we hear wheelchairs and walkers clicking into place to bear their rider to the arena. We take a huge happy breath and smile and know we’re home for a little while.
The days can be a whirlwind of activity: miles and miles of walking, brushing, catching, tacking, setting up arenas, tearing down arenas, chasing wayward kids, cleaning up the occasional vomit, wiping a snotty nose. Our feet hurt sometimes and we often can’t feel our fingers or our faces in the winter. We take turns throwing the Western saddles on the tall horses, based on whose back doesn’t hurt that day.
It doesn’t matter if we’ve seen each other a few minutes ago, we always exchange a smile or a joke or a nod of the head as we pass each other, leading our horses to and fro.
And sometimes, we get the treat of sitting down to lunch together, wolfing down a hodgepodge of what we brought in our brown bags, some leftover cookies from a few days ago, and using the chili pepper from last week’s pizza. We joke and tease each other, and occasionally share a tear over a poignant ride.
We all have our reasons for being there. We don’t often ask why, we just get it. We understand that many of us see Hearts and Horses as an escape from a world that is often cruel and devoid of miracles. We crave the joy and endless positivity we find here.
We are an army. More than that, we’re a family. We’re the barn cleaners, the horse leaders, the side walkers, the office helpers of Hearts and Horses.