Angie Ballard, Executive Director
I grew up with a sister with special needs and a compassion for horses. I started riding before I could walk and competing when I was six. My world revolved around horses (still does), and my knowledge of the amazing things they can do for people started early. My sister went through a lot in life, doctor's appointments, other kids teasing her, and struggling to do things that the rest of us do without even thinking about it. Although horses were always my thing I remember the moments she would spend with them and the smile they would bring to her face. The connection she would have with them, and the pride that would come shining through every time she accomplished something with them.
When I was in junior high school I saw a commercial about a therapeutic riding program and decided at that moment I would someday be involved with one.
When I graduated from high school I knew I needed a career that would pay for my very expensive hobby (rodeo). Horses were always and remain my therapy today and I knew life without them would not be a happy life for me. The career I chose was Dental Hygiene and I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Dental Hygiene with a minor in Business from Oregon Institute of Technology in 2001. I worked full time in the field for six years and realized it was not making me happy. I was trying to think of other part time career options when a patient came in and told me her husband was the board president for HOPE Equestrian Center. I lit up because I did not know that a therapeutic riding program even existed in Medford, Oregon. She told me I should call about volunteering, which I did that day. At the time HOPE was very small and closed for 6 months of the year because they did not have a covered arena. I of course called during their break and was told to call back in March (four months later). Three months down the road the patient came back in and told me they were hiring an Executive Director. I turned in a resume right away and ended up with the position.
Now thirteen years later HOPE has gone from seeing 36 riders a year in a non-covered arena, to seeing almost 400 in our very own covered arena! We are a small but stable non-profit with an amazing staff, out of this world horses and the best clients you could imagine. I feel that fate led me to where I am today, and am so happy to be able to help improve the lives of people like my sister. Even more I feel blessed to have a place where my child gets to grow up learning that just because someone is different doesn't mean they aren't equally as wonderful, and possibly even more special than others. Not to take everything he has for granted, including being able to get up out of bed on his own, get dressed by himself, WALK out the door and go do the things that he loves. And to understand everyone for who they are and take the time to listen to what they have to say. Although I do a lot for people at HOPE, the amazing clients and families we see everyday do even more for me. I can't imagine my life without HOPE Equestrian Center.
Jenna Heath, PATH Certified Instructor at HOPE Equestrian Center
My name is Jenna Heath. I am a certified PATH International registered instructor at HOPE Equestrian. Like many others on this walk of life, I have searched for a career that I could enjoy. I struggled with knowing what I wanted to be when I "grew up." So, I have some college achievements. Although I am a total geek about numbers and spreadsheets, they lacked the personal connection I desired to get me out of bed in the morning.
From the time I was nine to the day my parents moved to Oregon, twelve years later, my life was our horses. I never competed or took formal riding lessons. A family friend taught me the basics and I simply rode the trails with friends. The connection I had with an amazing being that was non verbal gave me the healing time that I needed on a daily basis. My horse was a best friend who did not talk back. It was refreshing for a teenager.
Horses have always brought me joy and have helped me through the roughest obstacles in my life. In the Spring of 2017, I found myself needing their assistance once again. On a friend's suggestion, I became a volunteer at T.H.E. Center in Hemet, California. My journey towards healing for myself led me to growing my abilities with horses and opening my eyes to what these incredible beings could do for those with varying capabilities. Everyone there continuously encouraged me to become a certified instructor. The time I spent at T.H.E. Center started me on the path to where I am today, here at HOPE.
My goal is to share the peace, love, and comfort that I have known by horses and the knowledge of their healing power with anyone who is willing to listen. I am dedicated in my quest to not only provide knowledge to others, but also to expand my own. I have always been an avid and eager student and I strive to continue to be better for my students, parents and caregivers, co-workers, and equine therapists.
I enjoy being able to work alongside some amazing, hardworking, and dedicated people. From the riders, volunteers, Angie, and Tim, this is a wonderful place to be. I enjoy being able to tend to our equine therapists so they may do their miraculous work by caring for our riders. Here at HOPE, my ambition is to support a safe environment where healing, trust, and exercise of mind and body can flourish.
My heart fills with joy on a daily basis, seeing smiles, hearing laughter, and being a witness to goals being met and exceeded. This is not really a job for me, but a dream fulfilled that I never thought I had.
Tim Womack, Certified PATH Instructor
My name is Tim Womack and I am an instructor at HOPE Equestrian Center. I have a Bachelors degree in Business and a Masters degree in Education. I have 38 years experience in horsemanship, training and teaching. I now have a daughter who is growing to share my passion for horses, and I am thankful HOPE allows me the opportunity to bring her to such a wonderful place from time to time.
I was blessed in my early 20s to be immersed in horsemanship, training, riding and showing. While I was very happy to be learning and riding, I had little appreciation for how blessed, spoiled even, my health and family finances afforded me. One day, years later after a career in education, I showed up to volunteer at HOPE just to be around horses. From the very beginning I found that my education and horse knowledge and enthusiasm could be of real and significant benefit to others. I was amazed at the scope and depth of the change that horses could make in the lives of individuals with challenges I could not even imagine. Now, years later, after volunteering, being involved with the board of directors and later becoming a certified instructor, I know the physical and developmental reasons why this works. Still, I am continually amazed. While working at HOPE, I have heard a seven year old with autism, considered to be non-verbal, say his first words on a horse, known adults with severe mental disabilities and living in a group home become more independent, able to ride bicycles around town and do their own shopping, I have found out that at risk teens are suddenly getting along with peers and succeeding at school. These are just a few of the many miraculous moments that are popping into my head as I write.
The results I see on a daily basis and the feedback I get from our amazingly dedicated volunteers energizes my efforts. The gratitude I receive from caregivers, family members and the clients themselves telling me that the positive results translate into a better life even away from the barn, constantly reminds that the work I do is important. I am truly blessed to be able to be a part of this outstanding program that is directly instrumental to our clients realizing a higher potential and quality of life..