Instantly Hooked – On Horses!

Instantly Hooked – On Horses!

Five volunteers for equine charities across the United States receive a free pair of boots each quarter from Ariat International, sponsor of the EQUUS Foundation Champions program, in recognition of their volunteer service.

We are proud to announce that the five volunteers selected by random draw for the second quarter of 2020 are: Lynn Alexander, Mary Ann Denninger, Ava Girton, Rebecca Strong, and Stephanie Westphal. These five volunteers represent the tens of thousands of individuals who contribute their time freely to keep horses safe and healthy at equine charities across the United States.

Ava Girton
We Can Ride, Inc.
Maple Plain, Minnesota
EQUUS Foundation
Ava Girton with Griffin

Ava developed a passion for horses at a very young age by spending time with her grandparents at a riding stable. For her fifth birthday, she was offered the chance to take her first official saddle seat riding lesson. Not long after, began competing in horse shows.

When she was finally old enough to volunteer at We Can Ride, she was proud to carry on her family’s tradition as a third generation volunteer and enjoyed all her roles as a leader, side walker and barn aid. She learned to appreciate the teamwork that takes place between the rider and the horse. “It is amazing to me that a horse can immediately detect when a rider is going to have a seizure, and remains calm to ensure the rider’s safety,” said Girton. “The horses at We Can Ride are very special animals because of the way they respond to riders. What horses have taught me has helped me be a better student and a more capable person. My experiences with horses continue to challenge me both in and out of the saddle.”

Lynn Alexander
Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy, Inc.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
EQUUS Foundation
Lynn Alexander with Sergio

About 15 years ago, Lynn met a little girl who was a rider at Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy. The child’s mother said that Pegasus was in need of adult volunteers. “I did not have any horse experience,” said Alexander, “but was always in awe. I signed up and was instantly hooked.”

Since then, Lynn has gained a lot of knowledge about the horses and riders and has learned patience, which has helped her in other areas of my life. Having the opportunity to experience how these amazing beautiful horses help people gain confidence and ability has been constantly inspiring — and building relationships with volunteers, staff and riders has enriched her life.

“My volunteering at Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy has given me purpose,” continued Alexander. “I will forever be hooked by seeing how our clients connect and interact with horses and how it brings a smile to everyone.”

Stephanie Westphal
HART Equine Therapy Center, Inc.
Auburndale, Wisconsin
EQUUS Foundation
Stephanie Westphal with Hart

A Minnesota native, Stephanie Westphal’s love of horses began at age nine when she began show riding in St. Croix, Wisconsin. “My riding opportunities were put on hold while attending college, but I was always on the lookout for an opportunity to ride and work with horses again,” said Stephanie.

That came in 2015, after she moved to Marshfield for work and noticed a brochure at her local vet’s office for HART Equine Therapy Center, Inc. Since then, she’s been volunteering primarily as a horse leader. In 2018, she joined the Hart Board of Directors as Secretary.

Rebecca Strong
H.O.P.E. Acres Rescue
Summerville, South Carolina
EQUUS Foundation
Rebecca Strong with Jordie, Murphy and Firefly

Rebecca Strong has been volunteering with H.O.P.E. Acres Rescue since October 2012 – drawn to the mantra that the rescue lives by — the guarantee that every horse taken in lives on the farm until the horse is rehabilitated and adopted to an approved family.

After a few years, Rebecca joined the Board of Directors as the Volunteer Coordinator and now holds the position of Intake and Adoption Coordinator. An all-around animal lover with four dogs and one cat, Rebecca recently retired as a middle school science teacher.

Mary Ann Denninger
Victoria Acres Equine Facility, Inc.
Altamont, New York
EQUUS Foundation
Mary Ann Denninger with Bear

Mary Ann Denninger drove past Victoria Acres Equine Facility many times before she finally drove down their driveway. As soon as she walked into the stable, she was drawn back to fond memories of her riding days and her horse. The rest is history.

After receiving a warm welcome, Mary Ann began volunteering in the Victoria Acres therapeutic riding program. Now, one year later, she has found her way back to spirited but gentle horses and the comradeship of a team dedicated to encouraging, educating, and empowering their clients. “The most rewarding part of volunteering at Victoria Acres,” said Denninger, “is to observe the steady progress made by the clients — all because of wonderful horses!”

Learn more about Champions here


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