Dressage Olympian Courtney Dye Donates Signed Photo to High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center


High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center was thrilled and surprised when they heard that Olympian Courtney Dye was donating to the NRADC Silent Auction to benefit their Horses for Heroes program, which uses equine-enabled therapy for U.S. soldiers and veterans. To have someone of international recognition support their efforts was touching. Out of more than 1,000 emails sent by the volunteer staff, five donations were pledged in the first week. To have one of those five donations come from Courtney was an affirmation that people truly care and want to help others. Considering Dye’s own physical struggles during the past year after a traumatic head injury, High Hopes was even more impressed that she reached out to help them in their quest to help others.

But when Renee Isler, who sponsors Dye, heard of the donation, she was not surprised at all. “ Courtney truly cares and wants to help other people. My main criteria in supporting riders is that they have a desire to give back to others, and Courtney has consistently shown that giving to others is very important to her.” Isler is an active supporter of U.S. Young Riders and started the Renee Isler Dressage Support Fund with The Dressage Foundation.

The Silent Auction has been held for the past three years at the Mystic Valley Hunt Club during the Northeast Regional Adult Amateur Championships (NRADC) and the Fall Finale show in October to benefit Horses for Heroes. Ann Guptill of Fox Ledge Farm and Lou Denizard of Delante Equestrian Center have been strong supporters of the Silent Auction, and have sought donations from their contacts to support the auction. Denizard has known Dye since she was a teenager and the two have remained friends. So when Denizard emailed his contacts asking for donations for the auction, Dye immediately asked how she could help. In years past she had donated lessons, but with her ongoing physical therapy making teaching a challenge, the volunteer staff suggested a signed photo of herself, not even thinking that writing, too, remained a challenge for Dye after her accident. Dye wanted to help however she could, and sent the signed photo to High Hopes. Due to postal service delays, the donation arrived one day too late for the actual auction at Mystic Valley Hunt Club on Oct 17.

Not wanting the donation to go unrecognized, High Hopes put the signed photo on eBay with the hope that a wider audience could join in the efforts to support the Horses for Heroes program at their center in Old Lyme, CT. A snowball effect occurred, with other riders that Isler supports joining in the effort to “give back,” which is a main criteria in Isler’s decision to support riders. Liz Austin, Suzanne Markham, and Jocelyn Weise have all given lessons and training. Below is a list of donations now on eBay, which will run through November 7. All of the proceeds will go directly to High Hopes and will be used in a scholarship fund for wounded soldiers and veterans participating in equine-enabled therapies.

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center is one of the oldest and largest therapeutic riding centers in the United States, operating since 1974 and accredited by NARHA (formerly the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association) since 1979. High Hopes primarily serves the citizens of Southeastern Connecticut, delivering more than 7,300 horsemanship lessons per year to children and adults with disabilities. Assisted by over 570 volunteers and a herd of 24 horses specifically trained for therapeutic riding, High Hopes is committed to providing the highest quality of services to the community. Of the more than 730 programs that are members of NARHA, High Hopes is one of only 6 centers in the United States approved by NARHA to provide their training courses in therapeutic riding instruction and has trained over 170 instructors from all over the world.

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