After their granddaughter, Hannah Sue, was born with Down's syndrome, Janice and Cleayton Mills were inspired to provide therapeutic horsemanship and equine-assisted therapies. In 2002 they founded Hannah’s Horseshoes of Hope, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, in Bonham, Texas to assist both children and adults with physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Originally therapeutic riding, also known as equine assisted activity or adaptive riding, was designed to treat orthopedic dysfunctions like scoliosis. Today the same riding skills are used to treat a variety of cognitive, physical, and emotional conditions including: Down’s syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injury, ADD, and depression.
Benefits of therapeutic riding include:
•Physical: The rhythm of the horse improves motor skills, balance, muscle control, posture, flexibility, coordination, and has cardiovascular benefits for the rider.
•Mental: A student focuses on their ability to concentrate, articulate emotions, and their sense of spatial awareness.
•Emotional: While in the saddle students bond with the horse, instructors, and volunteers. Client’s establish trust with others and self-confidence within themselves.
•Social: Riders acquire a certain amount of independence while working with a team of people.
“The best parts of the job are seeing how quickly our program participants start to benefit from their interaction with the horses and horse riding,” said Lisbeth Echeandia, Director of HHOH. “Plus working with our wonderful volunteers who invest so much time, emotion and energy in ensuring that everyone who participates in our programs has a great experience.”
HOHH relies entirely on fundraisers, grants, donations, and volunteers.
“Our primary goal is to make it even easier for everyone who would benefit from our services to take advantage of them,” Echeandia said. “In terms of big goals for our center, we would very much like a covered arena. Right now we're totally weather dependent, which limits our ability to serve the community. We would also love to be able to work year round, and offer more day camps and special clinics. A covered arena would give us that ability.”