Winners of the Ariat "Champions Win A Grant" Program Announced

Aug 4, 2014 - 4:05 AM
Volunteer Patti Andersen with Executive Director Robert E. Lee.

WESTPORT, CT – August 3, 2014 – Thanks to Ariat International and the dedication of three volunteers in the Champions Equine Service program, three well-deserving charities devoted to horse welfare and the horse-human bond are receiving grants.

Individuals who volunteer a minimum of 24 hours in a year for an equine charity on the EQUUS Foundation Equine Welfare Network are recognized as Champions and automatically entered into a drawing where the winners have the opportunity to select their charities to receive an EQUUS Foundation grant. Thanks also to Ariat, each of the individual winners receive a Gift Card for any Ariat boots (tall boots, paddock boots, barn boots, endurance boots) valued at $250 or less.


Heroes on Horseback, based in Bluffton, South Carolina, was the lucky winner of the First Place $2,500 grant thanks to volunteer Patti Andersen. Heroes on Horseback aids children with mental and physical disabilities to feel empowered through equine therapy. 


Patti, an active volunteer for the past five years said, “Unfortunately, these children have not had the full childhood experience of being able to choose the sport of their choice. However, when they are up on a horse they feel as though they are in control for the first time in their lives.”

After moving to the south and away from her two grandchildren who suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder, Patti set out to find an organization where she could help disabled children find joy in something they love. She has found just that at Heroes on Horseback. “There’s nothing like seeing children go from not talking, to laughing and having full conversations with their classmates and other volunteers.”


Thanks to volunteer Mary Rush, Free Rein Therapeutic Riding, based in Spokane, Washington, received the Second Place $1,500 grant. Free Rein is dedicated to equipping riders for life through adaptive equine activities, focusing on building strength, independence and freedom.


“Everyday I’m at the ranch is a great day, no matter what I’m doing,” said Mary Rush. Rush retired in 2009 after a 32-year career in nursing and moved from Minneapolis to Spokae with her spouse who was a native of the Pacific Northwest. Within months of the move, she began a second career as a volunteer, starting as a side walker and now a horse leader and Board member.

“I first looked upon volunteering at Free Rein as a way to meet people in my new community. But the kindness and devotion of the staff, the care shown to the horses and the compassion for the riders made me realize I’d found much more.”


Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue (RVHR), based in Hardy, Virginia, received the Third Place $1,000 grant. RVHR is dedicated to the prevention of equine abuse and provides shelter, food, daily care, medical treatment, rehabilitation and adoption services for horses that have been abandoned, neglected and/or are in need of a new home.


Nicole McGovern moved from New Jersey to Roanoke at the age of 22 for a job in nursing and started volunteering at the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue to spend time around horses. For the past two years, she has spent her days off of work doing anything that needs to be done to care for the beloved four legged animals that stole her heart. Nicole now has two rescues of her own, Isabella and her foal Saharra. “The barn is my home. The people and horses here are my family. I miss them when I’m gone and love spending time with them.”


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