Jodie Barton experienced the impact of New Kingdom Trailriders within five minutes of her first visit. “The horses were beautiful, the riders were smiling, and it felt so alive and wonderful,” said Jodie. “I fell in love with the magic that happens when a rider feels empowered, fully accepted, and focused on their abilities.”
Jodie began to volunteer more often and took a position on the Board of Directors. Eventually, her passion turned into a career as Executive Director. In her role, Jodie has built a team around her that shares her passion for providing riders with therapeutic services that empower them and improve their quality of life. She has worked tirelessly to grow her program and expand its reach. “Each time I leave the barn, I feel recharged and always find myself smiling,” said Jodie. “It’s a feeling all our riders and volunteers experience.”
New Kingdom Trailriders was founded in 1984 as a nonprofit therapeutic horseback riding facility with a mission to empower children, adults, and military veterans facing physical, emotional, and social challenges to reach their full potential through equine-assisted activities. “There’s no waiting room, nurses, or doctors at the barn, just blue skies, green grass, cats, horses, and caring instructors and volunteers,” said Jodie. “It’s an environment that is one of true acceptance and encouragement where everyone is allowed to be their unique self as we focus on each person’s abilities.”
A horse’s walk mimics that of a person, allowing riders to work muscles in a natural way. “Horses can sense the rider in a way that they know what they need,” said Jodie. “I have seen a horse move forward easily at a continuous pace with one rider and move slower, often stopping to make adjustments with another rider.”
New Kingdom Trailriders currently has 11 horses and does 91 lessons a week. This results in 91 individuals who are empowered each week, and that doesn’t include the many volunteers who also benefit from the program. “On average, we have more than 150 volunteers contributing 5,000 volunteer hours each year.” said Jodie. “Community participation is vital to our success.”
As a 2021 recipient of a Nation of Neighbors℠ award and empowerment grant, New Kingdom Trailriders plans to use the grant funds to purchase more program horses. “This will give us more variety of ‘personalities’ to match with riders, as well as help ensure our herd program longevity,” said Jodie. “More importantly, it will allow New Kingdom Trailriders the opportunity to continue enrolling riders, empowering our community’s most vulnerable.”
“My greatest dream for New Kingdom Trailriders is to continue to grow the program and improve the lives of all those who enter the barn,” added Jodie.