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A Participant bonds with HETRA Equine Partner, Yahzi, following an Adaptive Riding session.

HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy); Learn more: www.hetra.org; Photo credit: foton-foto

This has certainly been a year of obstacles & challenges for all of us. In March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we closed our campus for two months in order to protect the health and safety of our participants, volunteers and staff. With the physical campus closed, we focused our efforts on virtual offerings for our participant, families, volunteers and the community through HETRA University. Two months later, after implementing safety procedures and policies related to COVID, we reopened in a tiered format for our participants. As we began to re-open our campus, we found our participants and families were in even greater need of HETRA services. More than 42% of participants and their families have stated that they experienced a decline in mental or physical health due to the suspension of programming due to the COVID closure.

Although these past few months have been challenging, HETRA has continued to provide excellent services to individuals of all ability levels. In order to advance programming at all levels, we hired two full-time, licensed Occupational Therapists. Kaiti King and Diane Bemis had both been previously serving participants in our programs part-time, and joined us as full-time therapists in April. Their dedication to our participants will help our organizations to develop more collaborations with other organizations serving marginalized communities, continue to develop virtual programming, and help us to expand each of our on-campus programs. Kaiti and Diane joined Kelli Hatzenbuehler, HETRA’s Mental Health Therapist, to assist in growing our specialty programs especially those serving Veterans and their families.