Straight from the horse’s mouth: Northwest Colorado equine therapy program Freedom Hooves announces leadership changes | CraigDailyPress.com

Straight from the horse’s mouth: Northwest Colorado equine therapy program Freedom Hooves announces leadership changes

Whether trotting or going at a full gallop, riders involved in Freedom Hooves are gaining horsemanship and much more.

Freedom Hooves Therapeutic Riding of Northwest Colorado recently hosted its end-of-season gathering to honor volunteers and celebrate the progress of clients.

The 501c3 nonprofit organization provides equine therapy for a wide array of people in need of healing, ranging from Horizons Specialized Services to veterans to hospitalized patients seeking additional rehabilitation.

Operating from spring to late fall, Freedom Hooves featured a drill team display by some of its youngest participants.

Kyra Wright, La-Riah Cramblett, Sarah Kawchack and Dakota Nehringer were riding tall in the saddle as part of a choreographed riding performance in the Freedom Hooves barn.

Besides a routine that saw them criss-cross around the arena and line up in formation, young riders also performed some simple grooming on their horses with the help of volunteers.

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"I think we did really good today," Wright said after the show, smiling while brushing down her partner, a mare named Libby.

Program Director Joan Heinz oversaw the girls and their horses during the performance.

"They've been working on it about 10 weeks, and they did a great job," she said. "Some of them it was their first year riding."

In addition to honoring the many people of all ages who aid in Freedom Hooves' mission — including Volunteer of the Year Jesse Gifford — Heinz, who founded Freedom Hooves in 2012, announced during the potluck dinner that she will be moving to Montana.

She will hand over the reins to Ashley Boulware, who will serve as the organization's executive director.

Boulware, who has been working with the group for about one year and had served as secretary for the board of directors, said Freedom Hooves' administrative structure will be changing slightly though not its services.

"We've never had an executive director, so we felt it was time to have something like that," she said. "We will also be hiring a new program director. Joan had done both, and she has been the lifeline for so long."

Heinz noted that she believes the program is in good hands to increase the quality of life for clients, be it physically or emotionally.

Boulware said she is most excited to continue the organization's work, providing aid to about 32 clients in the past year with a dedicated staff of volunteers.

"Our mission is to combine the healing powers of a horse with the healing needs of the community," she said. "It's fun to see how they open up, and we want to focus on all walks of life in Northwest Colorado."

For more information on joining Freedom Hooves as a volunteer or client, visit freedomhooves.org.