This page is dedicated to the memory of our Founder & Friend Sandy Kuhn
Heartland Horses & Handicapped, Inc. was founded in 1998 on the vision and aspirations of Sandy Kuhn. She believed that by using horses to challenge perceived limitations of children and adults with disabilities that they would learn and grow, therefore improving their lives tremendously. Beginning with one horse and a handful of volunteers, sessions began in the local 4 H facility. On Saturdays, parents and caregivers would bring their children to ride, groom, and interact with the horses. Soon a couple horses were donated and the need to lease stalls, purchase equipment, and feed grew steadily higher. Riding sessions were now being held two days a week to accommodate the riders.
Ride-A-Thons were started as a way to bring much needed funds into the program. An annual “Putnam Ride” began, featured on the first weekend of May every year. This ride, now renamed the Sandy Kuhn Memorial Ride-A-Thon in honor of our late founder is still a well attended and loved event.
As the participant list grew steadily larger, it became clear that in order to grow as the community needed it to, Heartland Horses needed its own facility. Thus began the planning and eventual construction of the HHEAL facility located in Avon Park. A beautiful seven acre property with two pastures, a riding arena, eight stall barn with tack room, feed, room, restroom, and an office was constructed. HHEAL was able to obtain a loan through a local bank making all of this possible. For a year and a half many fundraisers were done as HHEAL worked hard to repay the loan and move forward. When approximately half of the loan had been repaid, HHEAL received a most unexpected and generous gift. The holder of the loan, Highlands Independent Bank, gifted to HHEAL the balance of the loan amount. Unbelievable! We were blown away as well as deeply humbled by the generosity bestowed upon us. Highlands Independent Bank continues to be a generous supporter as a horse sponsor, and through sponsorship of special events.
HHEAL is dedicated to the principles of promoting and encouraging independence. All that we do would not be possible without the tremendous support we receive from our volunteers. They provide countless hours working in the barn, with our participants, and at special events. Volunteers are what make HHEAL a functional, safe, and successful program which benefits so many.
Please come out and “witness the magic” for yourself. It is difficult to describe what happens, but you can see it, and you can feel it. Riding sessions are now held three mornings a week for participants in Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee, and Polk counties. Participation in the program at HHEAL remains absolutely free of charge for every person; there is never a fee to be paid.
We dedicate every day, and every moment to the memory of our beloved founder, Sandy Kuhn. They say that the breath of heaven is that which blows between a horses ears. We believe that if that is so, how fortunate our clients will be to feel Sandy’s spirit wash over them as they sit astride their cherished mounts. Sandy’s enthusiasm and determination will forever be the foundation that we draw from; reflect upon; and honor.