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I was talking with Sarah Harmon, who is on staff with Hearts & Hooves. As she said it, a smile broke across her face, and I found myself smiling in return. Hearts and Hooves is a place I’d heard about for a long time, but had never visited. And while I thought I knew what they did there, I was discovering that I didn’t know…exactly.
Hearts & Hooves is a therapeutic riding center in Sherwood. Barns, horse pens, and a riding arena sit on peaceful acres just far enough out of town to feel firmly country. You can hear the birds and bugs. The air is a little cooler, even in late summer.
People with disabilities come and ride horses here, guided by staff, and the riding helps them. Sometimes their disabilities are severe, and they require several ‘walkers’ to help them stay on the horse. Sometimes they are dealing with a diagnosis like ADHD. Anyone who fits the criteria can come for an evaluation. There are riders from preschool age to retirees; I was surprised at the wide range.
And so I asked: what is it exactly that the horses do that helps all of these different kinds of people?
Riding a horse helps with balance, strength, coordination. There are skills to be learned, progress that can be marked and noted. Just as powerful, though, is the nature of the horse itself: nonjudgmental. A horse deals with a person just as a person – no matter whether they are disabled or not. For many people, Hearts & Hooves is the only place where they are interacted with as a person like any other.
Hearts & Hooves is a special place doing good work, and I am grateful it’s right here in my community. It is almost entirely supported by donations so that rider fees can be kept low. If you’d like to help out, they have an active volunteer program; you can assist riders or help clean and maintain the place.
There are also a couple of great fundraisers coming up soon: the Little Rock Polo Classic at Windrush Polo Farm in west Little Rock on September 13, where $25 gets you a ticket for food, libations and the area’s first ever polo match. Or, you can enjoy the Hoedown on the ground of Hearts and Hooves October 25, with a dinner, live and silent auctions, a band, and Craig O’Neal as the emcee. Tickets are $65 or you can purchase a table for 8 for $500.
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