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Wednesday, May 31, 2023
May 31, 2023

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Student volunteer uses horses to offer rehabilitation therapy for people with disabilities

The Columbian

WOODLAND — Hope Batchelder, a class of 2023 graduate who recently completed her studies at TEAM High School, Woodland Public Schools’ alternative high school, volunteers at Healing Steps, an occupational therapy clinic offering people with disabilities rehabilitative therapy using horseback riding and horse care.

Elizabeth “Liz” Vallaire, a teacher at TEAM High School who has a daughter with disabilities, encouraged Batchelder, a member of Woodland’s equestrian team, to volunteer at the Healing Steps clinic to earn the community service hours Batchelder would need for her senior project.

Batchelder never had the opportunity to ride horses until her aunt asked the family to care for a horse a little more than a year ago. “I love horses, so I signed up for the equestrian team after my aunt let me care for her horse,” she said. “When Liz told me about Healing Steps, I knew that the clinic would be the perfect place for me to earn my community service hours.” As a volunteer at Healing Steps, Batchelder guides the horses so patients can concentrate on developing their core muscles, balance, dexterity, and mobility while riding.

Now that she’s finished her studies, Batchelder plans to continue volunteering at Healing Steps and riding for Woodland’s equestrian team, which is in the process of trying to find a new coach. “Our coach plans to retire this year, so we desperately need to find a new one,” she said. “I’d encourage anyone who has horses and wants to help teach students who love to ride to reach out to Woodland High School to volunteer — we’d love to have you!”

Vallaire emphasized the value of the equestrian team and all extracurricular activities. “Athletics and extracurricular activities motivate students to come to school regularly and succeed since good grades are a requirement for team participation,” she explained. “Finding a coach for the equestrian team would allow our passionate student equestrians to continue riding and competing.”