About HOPE

Learn About Our Purpose

A Letter from the Founder

Dear Reader,

I created HOPE in 2009 because I saw an opportunity to bring the benefits of equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) to individuals in China with special needs. In 2007 my husband’s work took my family and me from Austin, Texas to Beijing. I am a physical therapist with a background in hippotherapy and a strong interest in working with children with special needs. Prior to our relocation, I was fortunate to have worked as a physical therapist at a remarkable facility that strives to improve independence and life skills in partnership with the horse. I saw the amazing results that EAAT offers to individuals with physical, cognitive, behavioral or emotional challenges.              

In Beijing, I continued working in my field by volunteering at orphanages for children with disabilities. But because EAAT services were not available in Beijing at that time, I decided to found HOPE. My goal was twofold: to bring beneficial activities and therapies to the children in the orphanages I was serving and to share knowledge about EAAT across borders.

I am proud that HOPE has grown from a small one-horse operation to a vibrant organization based in Beijing and led by skilled Chinese staff and instructors. HOPE is an accredited NGO in the People’s Republic of China and a registered nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the United States. HOPE offers EAAT sessions in partnership with children and adults from three orphanages, the Migrant Children Foundation, the Beijing community and other provinces in China, and ex-patriates.

Thank you for your interest in HOPE.


Priscilla Lightsey, PT,DPT,MA,HPCS


More About Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy

Studies have demonstrated that Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT) can have a positive effect on individuals with special needs including autism spectrum disorder, blind and visually impaired, cerebral palsy, and many other disabilities. EAAT has been shown to aid children and adults with disabilities in many areas of life including: physical, cognitive, speech-language, and social-emotional skills. EAAT can be a powerful tool to promote healing.

The horse, at a walk, provides the rider with symmetrical movement at the pelvis that is similar to a typical human gait. This physical experience can improve the patient’s ability to walk. Further, when the horse walks, each hoof hits the ground at a different time, and with each step the rider is challenged to maintain his/her balance on the horse. Together, these movements promote the patient’s balance and coordination skills. Finally, the horse’s walk is consistent, frequent and predictable, all of which are important when learning or refining a motor skill.

Patients often develop a special relationship with the horse, which can facilitate communication skills. In addition, the horse’s movement provides a rich sensory experience, which can aid in sensory integration processing. Many individuals can benefit from Therapeutic Riding (TR), including those with cerebral palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Sensory Integration Disorder (SID), as well as those with no specific physical disabilities but with global development delays.

Possible Benefits

  • Enhances motor skills

  • Increases balance by developing core body strength

  • Provides rich sensory experience

  • Reduces patient anxiety through rhythmic & consistent horse pace

  • Promotes social-emotional skills through the special bond between the horse and the rider