HopeWell Ranch is a non-profit organization located a couple of miles down the road from Pol Veterinary Services and has been a favorite charity of Dr Pol’s for years. Jodi Stuber, Co-Founder and Program Director, shares with us how her amazing organization uses rescued horses to reach out to children and people who may have emotional, spiritual, physical, and social needs. Together, Jodi and her husband Ty, have helped hundreds of special needs children through their compassionate and creative approach to physical and emotional therapy.
What is HopeWell Ranch and when did you get started?
HopeWell Ranch is a non-profit agency that provides free therapeutic horseback riding for children facing a variety of emotional, spiritual, physical, and social needs and challenges. We began the ranch in 2004.
What compelled you to start such an organization?
Ty and I were surprised to learn that in January of 2003 we were having another baby. Our two children, Jessica and Richard, were already teens so it was an unexpected blessing. Unfortunately due to complications, our daughter died 5 ½ months in utero. After giving birth to her we named her Hope. When we spoke her name, the Lord spoke to my heart that “Hope would rise again.” I so needed that encouragement to make it through the days ahead. During my time at home I came across articles about horses and healing and decided that I wanted that for myself. I had always wanted a horse but never had owned one. In April of 2004, I found a book at a local Tractor Supply Company store called “Hope Rising”. When I read the cover, I gasped as the words echoed in my heart. The author, Kim Meeder, writes about how she takes broken children and broken horses and brings them together and the miraculous happens. I bought the book, read it cover to cover and cried through most of it. I shared the stories with Ty, and he said, “I think this is what we need to do.” So, in that moment, HopeWell Ranch was conceived and born.
What are some of the programs offered by HopeWell Ranch and what are the benefits to the children and their families?
The heart of our ministry Unbridled Potential, a free therapeutic horseback riding program for children with different challenges. We serve children with Autism, Attachment Disorders, bereavement issues, divorce, anxiety, depression, cancer, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, etc. It is such an honor to offer all these precious children and their families a place of love and acceptance, where labels are left at the road. They are just children needing what everyone does, to be loved and included.
The second service we provide is Equine Assisted Counseling and Equine Assisted Team Building. We have three Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) certified mental health practitioners and three certified Equine Specialists working at the ranch. EAGALA is recognized both internationally and by the American Psychiatric Association for its powerful approach when specialists work together with horses to provide healing for the client. Horses often mirror what is happening with the client and our clients often have “ah-ha” moments which helps them find lasting healing in a non-threatening environment. It is truly amazing to see someone gain insight or self-awareness in one of these sessions.
The third service we provide is called Project Solomon. Veterans, current military members, and family members unite at in our peaceful farm environment to facilitate healing and strengthen familial relationships through equine interaction and experiential activities.
What do you love most about your job?
I love so much about my job but especially looking into the eyes of the children who visit and showing them that they are valued and precious just as they are. It is a gift to be able to show them that they are loved. Working with animals is a huge blessing to me. Animals were always my outlet as a child. It is a privilege to be able to provide care for all the animals that make their home at the ranch.
What surprises people the most about HopeWell Ranch?
First, I think the fact that our riding services are free surprises people. I have been on the receiving end of hugs and tears from grateful parents when they hear that our services are a gift to them. The second common thing I hear about is the incredible sense of peace people feel when they come to the ranch. The families are almost awed by a feeling of serenity here.
What do you think of Dr. Pol, his staff, and what they bring to the community?
I love Dr. and Diane Pol. They are wonderful people of integrity and honor and their staff reflects those same values, too. I know that Dr. Pol genuinely cares not only for his patients but also the people who entrust their animals to him. His years of experience and his vast knowledge make him a trusted veterinarian in our community. His desire to be of service at a reasonable price is also a huge blessing to everyone who needs him to care for their animals. It isn’t every day that you meet a person who puts the animal and people before the dollar! Dr. Pol is a straight-forward, kind-hearted man who loves what he does and we all benefit from it!
What is like to be on “The Incredible Dr. Pol” show?
At first I was a bit apprehensive about being on the show but the wonderful crew put me at ease. When I focused on the Field Director and his questions, it was like answering questions asked by a friend. I am very grateful for the exposure the show has given to HopeWell Ranch. It is really amazing to us that we have inspired individuals and more people may be helped around the U.S. because of seeing our segments on The Incredible Dr. Pol!
How you can help/volunteer/donate to Hopewell ranch
Donate or contribute an item on our Wishlist at www.hopewellranch.org
This article has been edited for brevity and clarity. Photos courtesy of HopeWell Ranch.