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MISSION

Riders of Hope is a non-profit organization with a presence both in the USA and in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  In a country where equine sports and therapy is still in its early stages of development, we are dedicated to using the horse to mentally and physically transform and inspire children and adults.  We are committed to creating an environment where equality, respect, integrity, and opportunity are valued. We provide a variety of therapeutic riding programs for both children and adults with special needs to improve their quality of life through horsemanship and riding activities.  Furthermore, we are proud to be the first official Therapeutic Riding Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina with NARHA certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors!


VISION

The vision of Riders of Hope is to create a strong, positive, and stable environment that will foster growth and personal development in the lives of its participants and staff.


CORE VALUES

Integrity: Striving to do what is right for our clients, for our community and for our profession. Ethics, fairness, honesty and integrity are the cornerstones of our practice.
Passion: Passion for what we do and the drive to excel in every aspect of our activities leads us in our work.
Quality: Excellence is seen both in the services we provide and in the results we attain.
Respect: Respect for the dignity and worth of all, regardless of religion, culture, nationality, or ‘ability’.
Professionalism: Taking pride in our work and aspiring to be the best we can be; continuously learning and improving our performance.
Possibilities: Believing that nothing is impossible.

 

THERAPEUTIC RIDING IN BOSNIAN SOCIETY

Therapeutic riding is a positive force in any society; however, in Bosnia, it takes on an even more powerful form.  The war-torn country is home to some 5 million people, most of who have been subject to atrocities beyond comprehension.  Direct violations of basic human rights occurred as ethnic cleansing wreaked havoc on human lives for 4 long years.  As this incredibly resilient, yet still fragile society works to rebuild its cities, towns and spirits, traces of trauma can be seen on faces of ordinary people, many of whom are rape victims, orphaned children, impoverished grandparents and youth stripped of their childhood. In a society with so much to rebuild and heal, little attention is paid to those in most need—such as people with autism, retardation, and other mental and physical 'disabilities'.  As the first and only therapeutic riding program in all of Bosnia, Riders of Hope is an oasis of healing and inspiration for people of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities.  We have a unique partnership with the special needs schools around Sarajevo and work to provide these children with opportunities they once could only dream about.  One can quickly assess the impact of our work in the confident smile of the boy with an amputated leg or the earnest hug with which an autistic girl clings to her horse’s neck.  Beyond the obvious physical and psychological therapeutic benefits, Riders of Hope provides a rare recreational outlet for the people of Bosnia.  Horseback riding is not a common sport in the region and we are proud to play a significant role in introducing the equine environment to people with a variety of special abilities.

 
HISTORY

The program started as an experimental project of a few Bosnian riders under the wing of Emin Muratovic, a Bosnian professor of sports and riding instructor, and a few committed volunteers (including Senada Pekaric-Muratovic and Maja Hadziomerovic) at the Foundation Land of Peace and Friendship outside of Sarajevo.  Despite many challenges, their desire to share the joy and benefits of horse riding with those less fortunate led them to initiate an amateur riding program with a handful of grateful children and adults with special needs. Before long, the program grew from serving one woman with a shrapnel wound to serving more than 50 children and adults per week, and offered a small crack in the facade of impossibility.  This program was the first initiative of its kind in Bosnia, and was very well received by the community in Sarajevo and Sarajevo's special needs schools, which are currently undeserved and often desperate for activities, education and guidance for their students. 

After seeing the initial success of this amateur riding program, and especially the impact of hippo-therapy on the program's students, the founders of Riders of Hope determined that a horseback riding program focused specifically on the therapeutic riding and hippo-therapy for Bosnian adults and children in need could have a major impact on the emotional, mental and physical health of the needy individuals in the Sarajevo community.  It was clear that further education in the field would be a critical first step in this dream.  Senada Pekaric-Muratovic found the courage to uproot her life in search of an environment that could provide her with additional training.  She spent a number of years in the USA volunteering and training at Quest Therapeutic Services in Pennsylvania.  Senada is recognized by PATH Intl. and the Horsemanship Safety Association as a certified therapeutic riding instructor.  As a result of her active role in training children for Special Olympics at Quest, she is now a licensed coach for Equestrian Special Olympics (a skill we hope to, one day, leverage in establishing Bosnia's first Equestrian Paralympic Team).  Today, Senada is the most highly qualified and trained individual in Bosnia for Therapeutic Riding, and we plan to pass on this knowledge to other young, dedicated volunteers and enthusiasts. 

When we started we had no expertise, no money, no land, no horses... all we had, was our experience of seeing the immense bond made between special needs kids and horses at the Foundation Land of Peace and Friendship.  It was once said that we are insane people trying to do an impossible task.  And insane people don't know what impossible means. So here we are... Riders of Hope galloping into a better future with the children of Bosnia… one step at a time.

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