Life Horse: Where Hope and Joy Abound

Life Horse provides free horseback riding lessons to children with life-threatening illnesses.
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Life Horse provides free horseback riding lessons to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Life Horse is a nonprofit organization that provides free horseback riding lessons for children with life threatening illnesses. Margaret Hadley founded this unique program in Frederick County, Maryland, at Covenant Farm in 1998. The success of Life Horse at Covenant Farm has brought forth the need to expand Life Horse to Virginia, in order to best serve children in the DC metro area. Life Horse at Stonelea Farm in Aldie, Virginia is now open under the direction of Lucia Livermore, Program Director.

Life Horse is an innovative program providing emotional and spiritual healing using the horse. This program is dedicated to serving children with illnesses versus disabilities as one would find at a traditional therapeutic riding center. Children faced with acute illnesses, where medical treatments and endless hospital visits are an integral part of their life, need a mental as well as physical reprieve from their pain. Life Horse provides children with a much-needed pleasurable outlet and gives them an identity outside of being ill. Horseback riding, along with the close relationships children build through working with horses, is a life-affirming journey toward wellness.

"Perhaps the most powerful impact of the Life Horse program on its participants is the camaraderie that is built between these children as they explore a new world and learn an uncommon skill amongst their peers," says Elizabeth Beller.

When children first come to Life Horse, they are often withdrawn, angry at the world that has dealt them such a poor hand. The child that leaves after the first day is a whole new being.smiling, often for the first time in months, and already looking forward to the next visit. While enrolled in the Life Horse program, children can learn new skills, conquer fears, accomplish goals and enhance self-esteem under the care of certified riding instructors and trained volunteers. For children who are too sick to ride, Life Horse offers a creative activities program. Children can pet, groom and feed the horses and Life Horse will provide art projects, field trips and games for these children to enjoy. This will give them the opportunity for well-needed contact with these amazing animals.

The families of these children are not only hit hard by medical bills, making riding impossible, but no standard facility is equipped to deal with the myriad of problems. Life Horse was born to give these children what they so desperately need.a ray of hope in an otherwise pretty bleak world.

Life Horse is supported by US Senators John Warner and James Jeffords who serve as Honorary Board Members. It is through the support and generosity of many people who believe in the Life Horse mission that gives this special program a chance to succeed.

If you are interested in volunteering or supporting Life Horse through sponsoring a child, please contact Elizabeth Beller, Executive Director, at (703) 729-6442 or email lifehorseva@aol.com.

Life Horse is a NARHA Member Center - Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association.