By Amber Nichole Smith

Horses of Hope is a network of state-of-the-art equestrian facilities that uses horseback riding as a therapeutic experience for individuals with disabilities and at-risk youth. Founded in 1997 by Shelly McColm and Vallerie Sweeton, Horses of Hope stemmed from a passion they felt for riding instruction and special education. Today, they now have three locations: Baxter Springs, Kansas, Miami, Oklahoma, and their newest location in Rogersville Missouri, which allows them to serve more people from the Springfield, Ozark and Nixa areas. 

Shelly McColm, executive director and co-founder, recently graduated from Evangel University as a clinical mental health counselor, and is now licensed in Missouri and Oklahoma, allowing Horses of Hope to focus on equine-assisted mental health services to individuals, families and group psychotherapy services. Therapeutic riding services can also be offered to individuals who carry Missouri Medicaid, allowing many more people access to their services.

At its Oklahoma location, Horses of Hope has partnered with the MODOC Nation’s Youth and Family Services to offer equine therapeutic interventions, with a focus on awareness, prevention and treatment for suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse as a part of major, federal grant programs being designed, implemented and evaluated at Hope Ranch. 

Horses of Hope is dedicated to providing unique, educational, therapeutic and life experiences that inspire and change lives. These experiences aren’t limited solely to horseback riding. As some students may not be able to ride horses due to various physical, mental, sensory or emotional conditions, Horses of Hope offers alternatives to riding, which opens the world of horses and equine-assisted therapy in a multitude of ways that benefits those with all types of disabilities. They have a ranch-hand program that teaches care and responsibility through horse care and grooming and giving physical activity. This equine-assisted therapy can help heal and build skills in a multitude of areas including emotional awareness, social skills, impulse control, confidence, trust, empathy, strength, balance, focus, motor skills and problem solving. 

Horses of Hope is throwing its Hope Rides gala November 13 to raise funds for this amazing program. Some items available during the live auction include original art by Lou Stine, a signed Tom Brady jersey in a shadow box, two king-size handmade quilts and a signed Super Bowl magazine.