Journey from Equine Therapy Participant to Passionate Volunteer

Daily Point of Light # 7842 Jun 26, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Tressie Hoffman. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Tressie Hoffman has loved horses for as long as she can remember. Growing up with a learning disability and a rare genetic condition known as Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, horses provided her comfort.

“I just love being around them,” the 27-year-old said. “They make me calm and happy every time I’m around them.”

This connection with horses led her to Ride on Center for Kids (ROCK), a nonprofit in Georgetown, Texas, that provides equine-assisted therapy to individuals navigating physical, cognitive and emotional challenges. Initially joining as a participant, Tressie’s time spent riding horses became a catalyst for personal growth, nurturing her both physically and emotionally. However, her journey didn’t end there.

As she continued riding, she discovered a profound admiration for the dedicated volunteers who supported her every step of the way, igniting within her a desire to contribute back as a volunteer herself. So, in 2016, she started doing just that.

“When Tressie first started, her goal was to be a horse handler and it was a long journey,” said Susy Turnbull, volunteer coordinator at ROCK. “She started out as a volunteer scooping poop and sweeping the sidewalks, and then she started opening and closing gates. Then she started grooming horses and picking hooves. Now, she independently leads a horse.”

Tressie has been a volunteer with Ride on Center for Kids since 2016 and has dedicated over 1,500 hours at ROCK.

“Tressie, with her goals in life, her willingness to take risks and learn, and the support she gets here, we’ve been able to see her gain a lot of independence and grow,” Susy added.

Volunteering three days a week for roughly six hours each day, Tressie has dedicated over 1,500 hours at ROCK, wearing multiple hats in various roles. As an arena assistant, she ensures the smooth operation of the arena, from cleaning to managing gates. In her role as a pit crew member, she prepares the horses for classes, grooming and tacking them. But her favorite role is that of a side walker, where she provides careful support to riders during their lessons.

“I enjoy all the tasks, but I do really enjoy the role of being a side walker, which is basically the person who goes along with the rider during their lesson to make sure the rider stays on and safe on the horse,” Tressie said. “Volunteering at ROCK has given me the courage to be around people and brighten everybody’s day.”

While Tressie credits ROCK and the horses for her growth, Susy emphasized the vital role of volunteers like Tressie, praising her infectious energy.

“When she arrives, the first thing she does is runs around and gives everybody a hug,” Susy said. “Because of volunteers like Tressie, we’re able to empower children to gain independence by riding horses.”

Tressie sweeps dirt off a bridge obstacle inside the horse-riding arena as one of her volunteer duties. /Courtesy Tressie Hoffman

Tressie hopes that her story will encourage people, regardless of their circumstances, to embrace volunteering.

“I hope people learn that anybody can volunteer even if they have a disability. Each person has a unique journey and story to share, just like me. I hope my experience encourages to do the same.”

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Tressie? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Alicia Lee