OLD LYME, Conn. (WTNH) – 30 year old Therese Popinchalk gets stronger and feels confident when working with a horse at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding.

“We’re working on posture, balance, listening skills attention focus” said Executive Director, Kitty Stalsburg.

“I love my horse Gracie,” said Popinchalk.

Popinchalk also worked alongside Linda Ferraro for years. Ferraro has served as a side walker during her private lessons.

“Her level of independence has skyrocketed and her level of comfort has, as well,” said Ferraro.

“Volunteers are our life blood – they’re about 95% of our workforce,” said Stalsburg.

But, right now, High Hopes has a critical shortage of these necessary volunteers… who also feed horses, help with events and tend to the animals.

Stalsburg said build-back after the pandemic has been difficult. Many older folks no longer feel comfortable.

“Some of them ended up taking care of their grandchildren – their lives changed,” said Stalsburg who notes that important programs for riders like Popinchalk are suffering.

She’s reaching out at job fairs and Chambers’ of Commerce, looking to pivot and find new interest.

“There’s an opportunity here for everyone and you don’t have to be a horse person – they train you very well to get comfortable with different horses and different activities,” says Ferraro.

Popinchalk has grown so much. “Stronger and a better rider,” she said.

It’s fulfilling work that Ferraro loves.

“What I’ve found is that it’s truly an opportunity to get out of your regular day-to-day work and be completely immersed in supporting others working with the horses,” says Ferraro.

Summertime is a great time for young people to get involved.

Click here for more information about becoming a volunteer at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding.