It was a sunny, warm afternoon on March 30 when over 100 supporters gathered to witness and celebrate the rebranding of Talbot Special Riders to Positive Strides, a Therapeutic Riding Center.
In October 2018, the board of directors voted unanimously to change the organization’s name to better reflect who they are and how they benefit their riders. “We’ve spent the last several months strategizing, planning and working towards this day,” said Kim Hopkins, executive director of Positive Strides.
“We celebrated the day with our volunteers, donors, corporate sponsors, clients, caregivers, community partners, and local and state leaders,” said Kim. “Their support has allowed us to provide life-changing therapies to residents of the Eastern Shore with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges.” Dignitaries in attendance included Senator Addie Eckardt, Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood and Caroline County Sheriff Randy Bounds.
The new name, Positive Strides, reinforces the confidence, self-esteem and optimism that riders achieve through its programs. From autism and addiction recovery to PTSD and cerebral palsy, equine therapy can play a powerful role in giving a person the confidence and skills they need to live a fulfilling life. The CATCH Rider program helps youth at risk and adults recovering from family violence and sexual abuse. Just brushing and interacting with a horse can calm a person with dementia or help someone with depression.
As part of the rebrand, Positive Strides launched a new website, www.positivestridescenter.org, and updated its Facebook page at “PositiveStridesCenter.”
Founded in 1981, Positive Strides’ mission is to build confidence, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment for individuals with physical, cognitive and emotional needs by utilizing equine-assisted activities and therapies. It is a registered nonprofit organization and an active member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
In 2018, Positive Strides served 132 riders, conducting 458 hours of riding sessions. Volunteers logged more than 9,000 hours which, in part, assisted 97% of riders to meet or exceed their goals. As part of its evolution, Positive Strides hopes to increase its community partnerships to help empower more people. In 2019, the organization will introduce additional equine-assisted programs, including Senior Saddles, Horses Healing Heroes and Horse Hands.
Silver Saddles allows seniors suffering with Alzheimer’s or related dementia the opportunity to partner with horses to ease depression and other symptoms. Horses Healing Heroes offers veterans with various mental health needs and trauma to heal by partnering/bonding with horses and each other. Horse Hands provides vocational training for individuals with special needs who wish to work in a horse or farm-related field.
Executive Director Kim Hopkins first volunteered with Positive Strides in 1981 at its first session and eventually became an afternoon instructor for 12 years. Currently she teaches all morning and afternoon therapy classes and oversees the hippotherapy program with Occupational Therapist Pam Dinkel. She is a certified PATH International instructor. For more information, to make a donation to Positive Strides, or sponsor one of the therapy horses, contact Kim at 443-239-4953.