Priscilla Lightsey, Doctorate of Physical Therapy specializing in pediatric patients, founded Horses Offering People Enrichment, or HOPE, in Beijing, China in 2009. She was inspired to bring hippotherapy (HPOT), and therapeutic horseback riding, to China after experiencing the healing power of the horse while practicing Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) at the Ride on Center for Kids (ROCK) in Texas.
The HOPE story truly began in 2006 when Priscilla established the first HPOT program in mainland China at the China Rehabilitation Research Center (CRRC) where she trained a team of medical professionals. CRRC is considered the largest public rehabilitation hospital in the country. Sadly, the program was discontinued in 2008, and at this time, HOPE is the only functioning therapeutic horsemanship program in Beijing.
In 2009, following the closure of the CRRC program, Priscilla was practicing traditional physical therapy at a Beijing orphanage and felt compelled to introduce the benefits of EAT to the children. She requested, and received, a small grant from her church in Beijing to purchase necessary equipment and lease a horse. That spring HOPE worked with two orphanages and expanded their services to the expatriate and local Chinese communities. Their mission became very clear: partner with the horse to enrich the lives of children with special needs and create awareness of the healing properties of the horse.
Shortly after the organization’s founding, Priscilla received an invaluable donation in the form of a horse named Snipper! In addition, Sara Jenner and Zhao Yanbo, both experienced equestrians, joined the HOPE team. When Remy Lepore began volunteering the team was complete! The original team members have moved from Beijing, but HOPE continues to serve children with special needs including residents of Bethel Foster Home (an orphanage), local Chinese and expatriate children.
HOPE has received vital support from its community. It has grown through the help of its volunteers, gracious donations, and their partnership with Bethel Foster Home and stable owner Liang Haiming. Presently, HOPE operates out of Grasse Town Stable with a team of three ponies.
The current HOPE team includes Program Director Luna Sun, Veterinarian and Riding Instructor Alice Niven, and Volunteer Coordinator Caitlin Turner. Two other committed volunteers George Massey and Amy Lin round out the wonderful HOPE team.
The Therapy Team
Priscilla Lightsey | Founder
Priscilla is a life-long horse enthusiast who has a passion for serving children with special needs. She worked at R.O.C.K. (Ride on Center for Kids) before moving to Beijing. Her credentials include a Doctor of Physical Therapy, a Master of Arts in Special Education, Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist and PATH Int’l Certified Instructor. When not in Beijing, Priscilla works at ROCK and TAMU Courtney Cares Therapeutic Riding Program.
Luna Sun | Program Director
Luna has a gift for working with children as well as a love for horses. She holds a degree in education, is bilingual in Chinese and English, and owned an English Language school in Shanghai. She has worked with HOPE since the fall of 2014. Her compassion, dedication, and commitment make her a valuable asset the HOPE team.
Caitlin Turner | Volunteer Coordinator
Caitlin has lived in China since 2011. She volunteers at her children’s school (British School of Beijing) and has been involved with horses since she was a child. While living in Singapore, she volunteered with Riding for the Disabled. At HOPE she wears many hats, but her main aim is to be available for horse handling and side walking when groups visit HOPE to ensure the riders have the most rewarding experience possible. Other responsibilities include looking after our therapy ponies’ welfare, coordinating visits from orphanages and schools, liaises with groups who wish to volunteer, raise funds or become involved with HOPE in some way.
Alice Niven | DVM
Alice is new to Beijing, having just arrived in April 2015. She found HOPE when she started looking to fill the whole in her life left by the horses and other pets she had to leave behind in Australia. She has loved being able to use her background in veterinary science (DMV) by caring for HOPE’s horses and by teaching others about horse care and handling. Through HOPE she has learned much about therapeutic riding and loves seeing the joy and benefits therapeutic horsemanship brings to the children.
Zhao Yanbo | Equine Manager
Originally from Inner Mongolia, Zhao grew up working with horses. He is an experienced horse rider and trainer who has worked with HOPE since 2010. Zhao Yanbo assists in horse care by over seeing the HOPE horses’ health and wellbeing. He played a key role in acquiring a new horse for HOPE in late 2016. Zhao is also the riding double for William Dafoe in the upcoming film The Great Wall!
Snipper, Pangpang & Mu’er (Therapy Horses)
Carefully selected and trained by the therapy team, Snipper and Pangpang have the proper temperament, build, gait and other qualities to be successful therapy horses.