H.O.P.E. Hosts Ride and Run to Benefit Special Needs Riders


CULLMAN – The cold weather may have dampened the crowd, but not the spirit of the participants of the Ride and Run to Benefit the organization H.O.P.E. (Horses Offering People Encouragement). Equine enthusiasts from across the area came together to help spread awareness about the organization’s various programs. A lot of education and awareness happened at the event, as well as a lot of fun.

The ride took place at the property that once belonged to Evelyn Burrow, a renowned equine enthusiast, philanthropist and community activist. Rhonda Riley, coordinator and interim executive director for the H.O.P.E organization felt that this venue, coupled with the theme for the ride, was a great combination.

“Evelyn Burrow was a huge supporter of all things equine,” said Riley. “She did horse shows, and she supported all equine activities. She boarded horses, which was part of this farm here and is why we chose this place to have the event. She was always giving back to her community as well, so that is why it was fitting to have this ride on her property.”

The beautiful scenic ride across the property was sure to have been a fun time for everyone on foot or horseback. One of the main goals of the event, other than raising money, was to spread awareness of this incredible therapy option available.

“We want to educate others on what horse therapy is and how it can benefit those with special needs,” Riley said. “We are dedicated to offering those with any special need a safe and therapeutic horsemanship program, which is taught and supervised by a PATH certified instructor.”

Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, or PATH, is an organization that trains instructors like H.O.P.E’s own Keli Anders. Anders, who is the program director and instructor, has been trained by PATH to train volunteers and hand select the horses that will become program horses.

“All of our horses have been selected and trained by Keli,” said Riley. “She also trains the volunteers who help the program. This ensures that all participants are always with trained people, and encourages a safe riding environment.”

While the weather kept the crowd small, all who participated were all smiles as they watched children take pony rides, ate good food, and bid on many amazing items that were up for auction. Money raised from the program goes to scholarship programs to help those with limited income have the help they need to participate. Programs like this are so important for these individuals and their families. Riley summed up it up well when she talked about the metamorphosis and connection these horses and their riders have.

“Horses have a very keen sense of people, and connecting with them,” Riley said. “I feel that is a creation to creation connection. And all of the therapy that these kids get out of it is amazing. They get physical, occupational and speech therapy all in one. Watching their progress is amazing. Every kid that comes through shows incredible progress in so many ways, and that is what it is all about.”