High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc., was founded in 1974 by Mary “Sis” Gould as the Lower Connecticut Valley Educational Riding Association (LCVERA). Therapeutic riding lessons were offered to eight students with disabilities from a local elementary school, with one instructor, a few volunteers, and borrowed horses. By 1979 High Hopes had 28 riders, 32 volunteers and a paid riding instructor, operating in four separate rented locations.
one of the first therapeutic riding centers in the country to be accredited by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), now the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.).More About PATH
Over the next five years,
the demand for our programs continued to increase as the news of its high quality spread in the community. By 1985 we had purchased two horse trailers, hired an Executive Director, hired a part-time physical therapist and added a volunteer instructor/physical therapist to our therapy team. We were serving 69 riders with 74 volunteers.
we were able to lease a facility in Lyme, Connecticut, which made it easier to deliver our services and care for the horses in one location. With this major transition, High Hopes was becoming a significant nonprofit resource in the community. Activities for riders and families were expanded, and a full-time barn manager was hired to care for the horses. We were able to hold special events, both to enhance the program and to increase our fundraising.
In the late 1980's,
the leased facility was sold by its owner and High Hopes had to move again. It was clear that with a permanent home of its own High Hopes could become a professional organization with a heightened sense of dedication and reliability on which the people being served could depend. After a thoughtful planning process, High Hopes launched its first campaign to acquire the funds to purchase land and build a full-service therapeutic riding center, specifically designed for people with disabilities.
The Sis Gould Center for Therapeutic Riding opened in Old Lyme, named for the founder of High Hopes. We began operations in the new center with nine staff members and thirteen horses, serving 85 participants per week with help from 150 to 200 volunteers. By 2001, High Hopes had completed another milestone campaign that provided the funds to expand the facility to include a classroom, therapy room and office space for its growing staff. With an expanded facility and staff, High Hopes is currently able to serve 240 participants per week and train therapeutic riding instructors from all over the world.
Beginning as a group of nomads with borrowed horses, High Hopes has become a leader both in providing therapeutic riding services and in setting the standards for service, training and education in the profession. We have achieved ambitious goals, especially over the last decade, and have made significant progress toward a comprehensive strategic plan. The growth we have experienced is not just in terms of statistics but also in terms of governance, program quality, financial management, and fundraising.
As High Hopes has become a valued resource in the local community, it has also developed a respected reputation in the greater therapeutic riding profession. Within a year after opening the facility, High Hopes passed a rigorous review to receive a five-year accreditation by NARHA. That achievement established High Hopes as a leader in the therapeutic riding profession. In 1995, High Hopes hosted the Equestrian events in the Special Olympics World Games, attracting 180 riders from 26 countries, resulting in national recognition beyond the therapeutic riding industry. This was truly a milestone in our history. With national recognition, combined with outreach to the medical and educational communities, ridership grew to our current average of 240 participants per week.
As members of the High Hopes staff received advanced credentials and the program became increasingly well known in the therapeutic riding community, requests for consultations and advice from other therapeutic riding centers continued to increase. High Hopes was the first independent therapeutic riding center approved to teach the PATH Intl. instructor training course. Only six centers nationwide are approved to teach this course which is designed to prepare students for PATH Intl.’s three-level instructor certification exam. Our staff not only manages the classroom and practicum components of the program, but also participates in curriculum development for PATH Intl. High Hopes has graduated over 200 students thus far, who are working throughout the United States, Japan, Croatia and Israel just to name a few.