Roahrigs retiring from Higher Hopes

| May 15, 2018

WARSAW – The 2018 season will be the final ride for Higher Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center.

“It’s time for us to slow down and enjoy life,” said Tom Roahrig, who runs the non-profit organization with his wife Peggy.

The couple came up with the idea to offer therapeutic horseback riding opportunities for children and adults in the community with disabilities more than 20 years ago.

“Way back when we first had the canal boat and contracted the driver and had the horses we also had a riding stable over there,” Tom said.

Groups would come visit the stables and one day Tom stopped for what he thought would be a few quick minutes to check on visitors from Hopewell.

“Two hours later I left,” he said. “There was a student in a wheelchair crying because they were scared of every horse and pony. But when they left that student was crying not to leave. That’s what started all this.”

The first Higher Hopes sessions were held in the Roahrigs front yard and River View High School helped out in the winter.

“We used their ag shop and Pretty Products donated the mats that we put down on the floor,” Tom said.

The school also helped with volunteers.

“We had a lot of volunteers then because the FFA kids used it as a community service project,” Peggy said.

They needed something more permanent though and after looking around decided to build on their own property.

A benefit auction that has run for 17 years helped fund that building and the program.

“The auction in December normally carries us through the next December,” Peggy said.

It also helps with feed for the horses, replacing horses when necessary, upgrades to equipment and insurance. The original cost for participants was $15 a class, but two years ago it was raised to $20. However, no one is turned away.

“Sometimes if someone can’t pay they could get a sponsor, but if they can’t they come anyways,” Peggy said. “This year though no one is paying.”

Tom said they have seen the program help their clients in a variety of ways including: eye – hand coordination, following directions, improved balance and mobility and building confidence.

“When they come out to ride it’s their (the clients) day in the sun,” Tom said. “A lot of them even take ownership over their horses. We had to replace one client’s horse and we let him name the new horse.”

It also had an impact on parents.

“They got to talk to each other and became their own support group,” Tom said.

Both he and Peggy are thankful for the volunteers who helped them make Higher Hopes possible.

“We never could have done it without them,” Tom said. “We like to have one person walking the horse and one side walker so if it would have just been me and Peggy we only would have had one client.”

They also want to thank everyone who has made donations to Higher Hopes over the years and especially thank River View FFA.

“For 17 years they’ve supported our auction,” Tom said.

He added that they are looking into the legal way to shut down their nonprofit, but would be more than happy to help anyone else in the community get started on a similar program.

“There is definitely a need in the community for this,” Tom said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing the kids smile.”

While they are retiring from Higher Hopes, the Roahrigs will still operate the canal boat at Lake Park and the pony rides at the Coshocton County Fair.

“My heart is full,” Peggy said. “I appreciate all the love and support and people who helped us with Higher Hopes.”

Tom added that it’s been a good ride.

“We were just doing what people should do which is help one and other out,” he said.

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Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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