Hope Springs Equestrian Therapy  
How You Can Help
meet the horses
photo paddock
how to volunteer

HSET Board of Directors
Kenneth R. Swimm, Chairman
Sandra L. Hansen, President
Jan Brooks, Vice President
Ted Aicher, Treasurer
Jane Ann Yankelitis, Secretary
Amy Bullivant
Tammy Gingrich
Julie Kingery
Mary Ann Plankinton
John Rugh
Kent Smith
Jill Yankelitis

Elena Gonzalez Shaffer

Executive Director and
Senior Instructor

Jeannie Knowlton

Program Director and

Dallas Knowlton

Riding Instructors
Lauren Eder
Helen Garthwaite
Dallas Knowlton
Melanie McCartney
Jesse Bickel

Volunteer Coordinator
Lindsey Ferrara



Mission Statement

The mission of Hope Springs Equestrian Therapy is to enhance the quality of life of individuals with cognitive, physical, emotional or behavioral disabilities by providing them with affordable therapeutic horseback riding and associated special education of the highest possible quality, in a warm, safe and familiar environment.

What makes Hope Springs Special?

Hope Springs Equestrian Therapy, a nonprofit organization, was founded in with the intent of providing therapeutic horseback riding (also known as "equine-facilitated therapy") .

We at Hope Springs are dedicated to making life for those facing challenges a little easier. On horseback, our riders learn that they are perhaps not as limited by their disabilities as they once thought. Says Nina Lee, parent of rider John Lee, "John loves his riding lessons. The experience has built not only his balance and motor skills, but has boosted his confidence."

Hope Springs is unique among therapeutic riding centers in that it places special emphasis on family involvement. The setting is warm and familiar and provides a safe haven for those families struggling to achieve normalcy. Parents are encouraged to watch lessons and in many cases, they walk beside the horse to observe their child's progress more closely.

Another special aspect of the program is its small size. Our team has an opportunity to work one-on-one with riders, parents and their therapists in a way that is not possible in larger programs. We are able to forge close personal bonds with the riders and their families to facilitate communication about the needs of each individual. Lesson plans for each rider are specifically tailored and include exercises designed to relax tight muscles and develop strength and endurance in weakened areas.

Our eight horses and ponies were hand picked for their gentleness and patience. They have been specially trained to meet the requirements of individuals with disabilities. They seem instinctively to know that our riders need special care. An important element of our therapy sessions is the warmth and tenderness that our riders develop for their horses and the feeling of self-sufficiency that riders develop by learning to care for their horses.

Our "Hope Springs for All" Programs

Therapeutic Riding

One hour one-on-one riding sessions for children and adults with physical, cognitive, emotional or behavioral disabilities are designed to meet each individual's unique needs, capabilities, and goals. This program is designed for individuals with a wide range of disabilities, including autism, visual and hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, traumatic spinal cord and brain injuries, Down syndrome, leukodystrophy, and polio. The benefits of equestrian therapy include increased strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, self-confidence and communication skills. To inquire about this program, contact us.

Horse Camps for Kids with Disabilities

Our week-long (summer) and single-day (Saturday and holiday) horse camps offer school-age children with disabilities an extended chance to connect with a very special therapeutic partner: their horse. In addition to therapeutic riding, campers get a chance to bond with each other while learning more about horses and enhancing their life skills by participating in our special education curriculum, "Strides to Success." At camp, students learn how to ride and care for their horses and participate in many fun equine-related activities. For camp dates, information, and sign-up forms, click here.

Sibling Ride Program

Siblings of children with disabilities often experience stress and lack positive attention. Including them in our program can boost confidence for both siblings while promoting deeper understanding of equestrian therapy and how it enriches the whole family. Siblings who might benefit from this program are identified by instructors in consultation with parents of children with disabilities.

At-Risk Youth Program

Most participants in this program have behavioral issues such as attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship problems or many have suffered abuse, and are at risk of failing school in traditional classroom setting. Hope Springs staff collaborates with mental health experts to work with children and teens at risk of developing emotional behaviors and/or exhibiting behavioral problems. For these students, the horse becomes a welcome addition to their lives as a new, non-judgmental friend. To inquire about this program, contact us.

Unmounted Equestrian Therapy Program (UP!)

Hope Springs' staff developed this new horse-assisted therapeutic service by partnering with ReMed, a trusted referral source and collaborator. ReMed clients and others who wish to participate in Hope Springs' programs may have disabilities that are too severe to allow for safe horse riding. This unmounted program gives participants the same warm, supportive environment enjoyed by our riders, with activities tailored to their unique abilities, desires and needs. To inquire about this program, contact us.

Innovative Special Education Programs

As an Pennsylvania EITC-approved Educational Improvement Organization, we provide equine-facilitated special education programs to help local students develop new abilities and life skills. To contribute to Hope Springs through the PA Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, contact us.

Membership and Affiliations:


  • PACTH Member (PA Council for Therapeutic Horsemanship)
  • PANO (Pennsylvania Association for Non-Profit Organizations.
  • United Way

Hope Springs Equestrian Therapy is a nonprofit, nonstock corporation organized under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The organization is tax-exempt under Section 501c (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. We are a member of the PA Council on Therapeutic Horsemanship and the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations.



Vision Statement

Hope Springs is a fiscally self-sufficient premier provider of professional horse-assisted therapy, focused on reaching and serving a growing number of individuals with disabilities while maintaining our intimate community-based environment. Hope Springs continually develops and supports a well-trained staff of instructors and volunteers, attuned to the unique needs of each rider and using therapeutic riding to improve quality of life.

Endorsed by nCare