Right from the horses mouth – Therapeutic Riding Center is home to much-needed equine teammates

Since 1997, Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center has worked hard to promote and improve the quality of life for all of its participants. Up to 160 adult and young cyclists benefit each week from programs that address issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and other trauma, depression, anger management, substance abuse, domestic violence , attachment disorders, grief and loss. The 501(c)(3) is one of Larimer County’s largest volunteer programs.

Additionally, Hearts & Horses’ 23-acre ranch in Loveland, Colorado is home to 26 truly indispensable equine teammates. Here are the personality profiles of a few of them, straight from the mouths of each of the talented horses (mules and donkeys too).


Hello everyone! My name is Rocket but I’m not a speed demon. I’m more of a good-hearted guy, in your pocket. And while I don’t want to brag, I’ve won “Sweetheart Of the Year” twice. It’s because I’m so friendly and wonderful with children. You see, after I retired as a Western competition horse, I let my owner hire me to H&H to work with program participants. Why? Because I love, love, totally love people. Over the past few years I’ve also taken great walks on the trails and helped move cows between pastures. I hope to work with any of you who might want to enroll in our program! (Bring some carrots, please.)


Greetings from Rocky Mountain National Park! Well, that’s where I worked before retiring after my long and successful career in the park. As a ranger horse, I performed daily tasks such as packing up lost and injured people. Sometimes my human ranger and I would ride to the top of the mountains. Imagine what a big set of lungs I must have, plus the stamina of mind and body. My beautiful paint coloring, flashy like a mountain sunset, has attracted tourists and the compliments that come with it. As I have always served others of my own free will, simply languishing in a field all day was definitely not on my to-do list. So I came to H&H, now my happy home forever; and everyone here is my flock.



We are the Hafflinger girls. I, Cinnamon Girl, am one of the oldest in the program and Hope among the newest. Let us introduce you.

Hope here. When I came to H&H in 2020, I was amazed to meet an older lady, Cinnamon Girl, who looked like my Haffie family members. She is a pony with a big heart and a “versatile” who works in most programs. She loves her hippotherapy riders, riding in the moment, and veterans too.

Thanks, Hope, for that nifty introduction. You fit in well here and particularly appreciate the little scratches behind the right ear of the hoo-man team members. It’s pretty cute too, the way you use your nose to explore your surroundings. The folks at H&H appreciate your concern and kindness. Your “shooting star” face marking makes you look as alert and cheerful as you are!



It is sometimes said that size matters. Hmm. Well, because I’m the biggest of this herd, someone called me the H&H version of Ferdinand the Bull. I think it was Kathryn Yuma, our head of development and communications. She and Melanie Newkirk, our equine trainer, agreed that my heart and personality are even bigger than my awesome body. My appetite is pretty big too. For example, finding attractive flowers that I like to smell – and maybe eat – while I ride. Yum, trail mix! I am calm but assertive both solo and in a group; and always very careful when people are around so as not to accidentally step on their very soft hooves. Because size matters.



H&H has been selected to receive (through a five-month PATH International Accredited Centers Facebook voting contest) one of Lexlin’s incredible Gypsy Vanner horses bred at a Tennessee facility. Imagine my joy to learn that H&H chose me, Varsity! Someone at the breeding farm told them I was a “go with the flow” type who likes affection but doesn’t demand attention. People exaggerate sometimes, but not about me. I’m a cool southern guy with a warm heart.


ALLIE, 19 AND SADIE, 25 —Anyone who loves mules will love us. My name is Sadie and I feel young as a hen in the spring. As hybrids, we mules generally live longer than horses. Well, I’ve heard of mules and our little donkey cousins ​​who made it to their 50th Carrot Cake and Candles Celebration! As for me, I already have a well-filled memory book. For example, I was named the 2016 PATH Region 10 Equine of the Year! Maybe because my steps are as smooth as on a cloud; I am very patient as I try to figure out what my rider wants and needs; I like to be liked and enjoy the blows on my long ears.


Hi! Ally here. I started life as a solid, safe trail ride before coming to H&H when Sadie and I were given the program by Meredith Hodges and her Lucky Three Ranch. We are the oldest members of the herd. My role is – and I quote – “a charming and reliable part of the Hearts & Horses herd”. I have beautiful long ears and kind eyes.



Did you see what Sadie said about us long ears up there? So every 7 years Paco and I (Levi) are just young people. And, we are half-brothers, minis. Since we were donated to the H&H herd in September 2021, we have worked hard to become therapy donkeys. I’m the most outgoing, friendly, smart, fun-loving self-guided tour of H&H offices! Tee-hee-haw! Unlike Bubby Paco, I prefer to be on the go. Yeah!

Alright, Levi, I think they got it, lol. Me, Paco, I’m a bit more cautious and shy than Levi. But once someone earns my trust, I’ll be their best friend! My sideburns are neat; slow, gentle walks; in partnership with people using adapted equipment such as wheelchairs or walkers. BTW, did you notice all my tech talk, like BTW and lol? Levi learns abbreviations like these when he explores the offices of H&H…and then he teaches me. lol



If you call my name, which is Fiona, I might taunt you! Have you noticed that my wild, thick mane totally enhances my cute and cuddly look? We Fjord ponies are great for therapy duty due to our short, stocky frames. I’ve done a lot of great things so far in life: barrel rolls, poles, parades and jumps. I love people, whether young or old. My friend, Serenity, is still in her three month trial here, so she doesn’t have much to share yet. But she is an outgoing, playful little girl who has already won many hearts around the ranch. Say something about yourself, Serenity.


Hello. I sometimes wear a little tiara between my ears. Goodbye.



SIDEBAR – Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center is looking for one to three great horses to buy/rent or donate. The ideal candidate is a people lover, has a calm and steady temperament, is between 15.2 and 16.3 hands tall, weighs between 1,100 and 1,400 pounds, is strong, well trained, and is between 8 and 16 years old. If you or someone you know has such a horse available, please visit http://www.heartsandhorses.org/ourherdemail Lisa Rakow, Director of Equine Services at [email protected] or call her at (970) 663-4200. For general information, visit http://www.HeartsAndHorses.org.

Clyde P. Johnson