Senate District 16 Rep. Shannon Grove awards Happy Trails Riding Academy as Non-profit of the Year


SACRAMENTO – Happy Trails just keeps riding along in Tulare, and they have some wind at their back now that they have been honored as Non-profit of the Year for Senate District 16.

Last week Senate Republican leader Shannon recognized the accredited therapeutic center as California’s 16th Senate District Non-Profit of the Year as they joined other non-profit organizations in receiving the recognition at the Fourth Annual California Nonprofits Day at the State Capitol hosted by the California Association of Nonprofits.

“I’m proud to recognize Happy Trails Riding Academy for their contributions to our district. The talented team at the academy has enriched the lives of children and people with disabilities through equine therapy. As one of the fully-accredited therapeutic riding centers in the San Joaquin Valley, they have helped present opportunities for independence and friendships in their positive learning environment,” said Grove.

Happy Trails’ newest program has been specifically targeted to help combat veterans, titled A Combat Veteran’s HOPE. Happy Trails works closely with the Wounded Warrior Project to provide therapeutic horsemanship to warriors who are dealing with everything from physical injuries to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therapeutic horsemanship has been proven to help warriors strengthen physically, mentally, and emotionally in a positive and welcoming environment.

The nonprofit published one of their many success stories their website, to testify how HOPE helped a veteran named Norbie.

In 2004, his vehicle was struck by a rocket propelled grenade in Baqubah, Iraq. During the attack, Norbie lost his arm, sustained a brain injury, lung damage and a liver laceration.

What he still struggles with to this day, is Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). It is estimated that there are over 400,000 men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, struggling with PTS. He is one of those individuals. Because Norbie knows what it’s like to struggle with PTS, he helped found a charity called A Combat Veteran’s Hope. He provides many opportunities for engagement and education for combat veterans and their families.

With the right support, those who have PTS can live a pretty normal life. There are resources nationwide and in their community can assist them and their family. Of course, they wanted to find organizations that were willing to help veterans through unique programs. Thankfully, they came across Happy Trails.

Because of past experiences with well-intentioned organizations, Combat Veteran’s HOPE leadership team doesn’t like to send those they serve through any type of programs unless their leadership goes to it first. Even though Norbie was very afraid of horses, he volunteered. He was introduced to Ridge and after about the second or third therapy session, began to see why Happy Trails does what it does. Every week Norbie looked forward to spending time with Ridge doing the groundwork and just focusing on him.

“I think one of my favorite things to do is spend time with him in the round pen, just he and I,” Norbie said.

With Program Director Lisa’s guidance, he has not only overcome his fear of horses, but even did what he said he would never do again: ride a horse.

“We are so thankful that Happy Trails is here to help our combat veterans. In a few weeks, I’ll have completed the session. Something tells me I’ll be coming back,” Norbie added.

“Therapeutic horsemanship has been proven to provide a unique opportunity for self-improvement while offering a challenging alternative to traditional therapy. Our team is honored to receive this recognition from Senator Grove. We’ve been serving Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties for 35 years and will continue to provide unique equine therapy for countless riders,” said Leslie Gardner, Executive Director of Happy Trails Riding Academy.

The California Association of Nonprofits is a statewide alliance with more than 10,000 organizations that represent and promote California’s growing nonprofit sector.

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