New Hope was founded in 2012 by Sharla and Dave Kershen in order to foster a program encouraging the horse and human connection for the benefit of both horse and rider but specifically for those with disabilities. At New Hope Equine Assisted Therapy, we provide therapeutic horseback riding services for people with a variety of disabilities, special needs, and challenges. We strive to bring hope, healing and happiness to all those who participate in our programs, including the newly launched program for veterans and first responders, Horses Helping Heroes.
Beau is a 1998 model palomino appendix gelding. Upon retiring from his former career as a jumper, Beau transitioned to a soft retirement as a lesson horse at New Hope in 2016 and is the only OG still working! A multi-talented guy, Beau is fluent in both English and Western and likes to help everyone from the newest beginner on up to highly skilled riders. He is content to follow a leader around and is known to occasionally take a nap in the middle of a lesson, making him perfect for taller, balanced riders who still rely on help from the ground. For riders who ‘speak horse’ well, Beau is always game for a barrel race and his competitive nature comes out for those who ask properly. His big, bouncy trot is a gift to riders who are learning to post, or rise and fall with the movement of the horse’s legs. Beau’s best friend at New Hope is Tommy, except at meal time when Beau prefers to leisurely eat his meal without interruption. Because of wear and tear on his teeth, Beau is a special needs member of our herd. He gets extra alfalfa watered down and spread throughout the day to make up for the fact that eating hay is HARD when you’re toothless. Horses are designed to eat almost constantly and need to always have food moving through their systems, so feeding Beau 4 times a day instead of the usual 2 helps address his body’s needs to function optimally. Beau also suffers from TMJ, just like people! Due to his challenges with eating, Beau’s figure is constantly monitored to make sure that he is getting enough to eat!
Cyclops is a quarter horse, vintage 2005, who joined New Hope in 2019 when his owner could not take him to college. Before becoming a therapy horse Cy was a barrel racing school horse, and before that he was a jumper. He is one versatile boy! Back when Cy was a jumper he lost his eye to an infection, but it has never slowed him down. He adapted to his new normal, continued jumping, became a barrel racing instructor, and now is a careful therapy horse! He loves showing off his skills to adventurous riders who want to jump over a ground pole or try their hand at barrel racing, and is a pro at going slow and steady, giving less adventurous riders confidence. Cy is frequently found grooming his best friend, Olivia.
Daisy Mae (circa 2002) is the New Hope resident mule and can be easily recognized by her long, expressive ears or her loud hee-haw at turn out time! Daisy Mae began her therapeutic riding career in 2021 with a flourish, quickly demonstrating that the horses had nothing on her. From her very first student ride, Daisy Mae allowed riders to hang and retrieve rings from her ears, throw water balloons, hang light up Christmas ornaments on her, dress her up, throw pretend snowballs….nothing fazed this steadfast girl! Trotting with a very side to side movement, Daisy Mae’s riders almost feel like they’re doing a hula dance. Speaking of dances, Daisy Mae has her own dance move created by the riders, and instructors use warmup moves named for the mule in lessons. Daisy Mae loves working with everyone, from those who depend on a wheelchair to those who are accomplished riders. She enjoys getting to go out on trail rides and always knows the way back to the trailer. Her most favorite thing of all is turn out time, or recess. She has a very good internal clock and will loudly keep everyone on schedule as time draws near for recess, dinner, or snack time. Daisy Mae is in the special needs club and suffers from a condition called Uveitis which can lead to blindness. She wears a fly mask most of the time to protect her eyes from UV light and gets regular eye drops and ointments to make sure she is comfortable and avoids flare ups. If you do not understand the expression ‘stubborn as a mule’, Daisy Mae will be happy to demonstrate it although she insists she’s just thinking things through before she makes a bad choice!
A 2009 model quarter horse, Duke was welcomed into the herd in spring 2023. Bred to be a western pleasure horse and quite successful at it, Duke was unable to continue in the competition arena due to an injury. His injury is completely healed and while it put him at a huge disadvantage in the competition arena, it does not limit or prevent him from being an excellent therapy horse. Thankfully his young owner recognized that though his western pleasure competition days were over, he was far from done and had many gifts to offer riders. She chose to allow him to share those gifts with New Hope while maintaining ownership and visiting rights (which she does quite regularly, thrilling Duke and us as well). Duke wasted no time making new friends and establishing himself as a worthy steed. He loves people and is a little like a big puppy! Riders have picked up on his personality and he is quickly becoming a favorite. Because of his skill at the western pleasure jog (a very slow, relatively smooth trot), Duke excels at introducing riders to the trot. He enjoys the opportunity to stretch out his trot as well, so more daring riders thrill to his speed and power. Eager to please, Duke is content to go with whatever speed is required of him at the time. So far Duke does not have a best friend – he likes everyone!
Flash is a gray 2004 model grade quarter horse gelding who came to New Hope in 2020 when he was gifted by his new owner who could no longer ride. Flash was nervous when he arrived, but Missy took him under her wing and he has now blossomed into a confident herd member. These days he is usually found hanging out with his favorite mule, Daisy Mae. Flash prefers confident leaders and confident independent riders and is very good at teaching humans to be assertive but fair and calm. He carefully carries riders as old as 93, standing perfectly still for mounting and dismounting and trying his best to listen to riders, spotters, and leaders. You can see his indecision when he is getting mixed messages from them, “Listen to the rider, the leader…what to do…just stand still”! This actually makes him perfect for those who are not fully aware of what their bodies are saying to the horse because he chooses to just stand still until the message is clear. The rider is safe, and Flash teaches him to be more deliberate in his movement. Flash has a circular movement at a slow walk which becomes more front to back the faster he goes, giving riders different stimulation all within the walk. His trot is very side to side, requiring riders to constantly adjust their balance while staying centered on his back. We do not know much about Flash before he came to us, but we suspect he was a working ranch horse for most of his life. We DO know that he enjoys the slower pace at New Hope and getting to be part of an actual herd.
Gabby came to New Hope in 2018 via a former New Hope rider who rescued her. Not much is known about her younger days, but we suspect she competed in rodeo events in some capacity. She just gets so excited and is raring to go when she attends our annual competition for special needs riders, the Chisholm Challenge. Gabby is estimated to be an early 2000’s model grade, which is a fancy way to say her breed is unknown. Riders enjoy Gabby’s smooth gaits and willingness to go slow. The more advanced riders love her speed at the canter and her ability to turn on a dime. Gabby is a special needs mare, suffering from Cushing’s disease, an endocrine disorder, and has fully recovered from EPM, a disease which affects the nervous system. Sometimes she requires special understanding and encouragement, as her EPM battle left her unsure of her balance when having her feet tended to. Gabby tends to have a horse of the day preference and hangs out with different herd members as the mood strikes, but chooses to hang with Chito most often.
A lovely vintage ‘98 bay warmblood, Libby came to the USA from Germany at the age of 8 and joined the New Hope herd in 2020 when her former career as a dressage master was winding down. This mare is proper English through and through and her sensitive back would revolt at the thought of being ridden Western! She likes to have a daily bath, with bubbles of course, and loves to be treated like the lady she is. A Sonstiges Warmblut, Libby’s registered show name is Walentine! She proudly takes her position as the leader of the herd and makes sure the others are following her rules (she gets the first bath). While she can do leadline lessons, Libby prefers working with the more independent riders and teaching them to refine their body positions and fine tune their rein usage. She is a willing partner who works hard to do whatever she is asked. Libby is a member of the special needs bunch and has Cushing’s disease, an endocrine disorder a little like diabetes in humans. Management of Cushing’s requires a special, low sugar diet and daily medication. Her food is spread out over 4 feedings daily in order to simulate the constant grazing that Cushing’s prevents. Libby likes being out with the herd and is frequently seen hanging out at the hay net with Daisy Mae.
Affectionately known as Grandma, Missy joined the herd when her owner started riding at New Hope. Prior to her career change, Missy enjoyed trail riding all over North Texas with and participated in a few endurance competitions. The noise of children out on the trail always made Missy anxious, but then she started boarding next to an elementary school and thankfully learned that children were actually okay. A roughly 1998 gray Arabian, Missy is a kind, patient teacher and leader for both horses and humans. New therapy horses gravitate to her and she helps them assimilate and shows them the ropes. With her smooth as glass trot and canter, Missy is the go-to for introducing those gaits to riders. She carefully keeps her riders centered and balanced while building their confidence. Not much fazes Missy and she shows no signs of slowing down!
Olivia is a 2004 model Gypsy Vanner with a long, flowing black and white mane, and a long, thick forelock and tail. At various times throughout the year, she sports a black and white curly mustache! Her favorite pastime is being pampered, groomed and told how beautiful she is. This girl will stand untied for hours to be be brushed and braided! She is solid enough to carry larger riders, but gentle enough to take care of our smaller riders, too. Olivia prefers to be ridden bareback or English, and enjoys going out on trail rides off property or down to the New Hope sensory trail. For a long time, Olivia’s mantra was “talk to the hoof” when it came to other horses, but she has bonded with Cy and now happily shares her paddock with him. They can frequently be found grooming each other and are a very content pair. Since moving in with her BFF, Olivia has decided that the rest of the herd is actually okay and now enjoys peaceful turnout time with them all.
Rain is an estimated 2014 model brown and white paint pony who was rescued from a kill pen to be a companion for a lonely horse. No one knows how she ended up in such dire straits, but she does have vision issues with one eye which can make her jumpy and does not enjoy hands around her face. Those traits could make her unappealing to unsupervised children, but with supervision or young riders with self control she is virtually bombproof. A lot of our riders can empathize with Rain when it comes to quick, unexpected movements! Once this lucky lady was rescued, she was gently trained to be a riding horse and began working at New Hope in 2019 where she quickly became a favorite with the youngest riders. In 2020, she attended her first Chisholm Challenge where she impressed the judges and stole the show every time she was in the arena!
Tommy is a blonde, Belgian draft horse, vintage 2003, who came to New Hope via a kill pen. Unfortunately some people feel that a horse who can no longer work in the capacity required is worthless and do not make responsible arrangements for a career change or a proper retirement. We believe this was Tommy’s fate and suspect that he was a plow horse before finding his place in our hearts. Tommy seems to understand how perilous his life was for awhile, and consequently relishes people, playtime, and bananas (not necessarily in that order). For such a giant, he is surprisingly in tune to his riders’ needs and does his best to keep them safe. He has even been known to alert staff to an impending medical issue being experienced by a rider! Teaching riders to focus and steer confidently is his forte, as they must keep Tommy focused and directed or risk smashing every cone or pole in sight! Tommy gives the gift of confidence and pride to his riders, many of whom were afraid of him at the start. Not many people can say they work with a 2000 pound animal with feet the size of dinner plates! Tommy does not care what kind of saddle his riders use, or if they even use a saddle at all. Western, English, Australian, endurance, bareback - just get on and let’s play! Riders like to thank Tommy for his friendship and willingness to partner with them by bringing him his favorite treat - frozen bananas with the peel still on!
Against the odds New Hope weathered the Covid storm and came out stronger!