Rediscovering Horses, Rediscovering Ourselves: Finding Purpose in Volunteerism

Thanks to Ariat International, five deserving volunteers at equine charities across the United States receive a $270 Gift Card for Ariat Boots each quarter. Ariat International sponsors the EQUUS Foundation Champions program, which aims to stimulate and reward volunteerism on behalf of horses.

We would like to congratulate the winners for the fourth quarter of 2021: Teresa Cendrowska, Michelle Foss, Kaye Garland, Bonnie Plevel, and Sophia Soto . The EQUUS Foundation is grateful for volunteers like these who dedicate their time to keeping horses safe and healthy and aiding the charities and horses that serve people in need.

Teresa Cendrowska
Special Equestrians
Warrington, PA

Teresa Cendrowska has long known the sense of peace and fulfillment that horses can bring to our lives – she has loved them since childhood and often spent time with them on her grandparents’ farm.

“When I walk into the barn, everyday concerns recede,” she said. “It’s my form of relaxation and [it] reenergizes me.”

Teresa was introduced to the volunteer program at Special Equestrians through a family friend and jumped at the opportunity to join.

She said that her time there has taught her a lot about horses, thanks to the patience and knowledge of the staff and volunteers that work there. As is often the case, she’s learned plenty from the herd itself, too.

“No matter the task, I enjoy the opportunity to help others,” she said. “Most of all, I am thrilled for the opportunity to spend time with the horses.

Michelle Foss
Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue, Inc. (HLER)
Afton, VA

Michelle Foss has been volunteering with Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue (HLER) since 2016. During her time there, she has watched the program grow from a small, rented barn to its current location – a 172-acre site.

Michelle, who is a mother of three, recently became a grandmother. She said that all of her family members have, at one time or another, been recruited to help feed the horses at HLER.

“We get to know so many horses and always fall in love with someone,” said Michelle. “Watching them leave to forever homes is the best, even if goodbyes are hard!”

“HLER is a magical place of love, hope and kind people, as well as precious, stubborn and funny critters,” said Michelle. “I have truly been blessed to be part of a great community at HLER and we are so grateful for our sponsors.”

Kaye Garland
Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue Inc.
Hardy, VA

Kaye Garland has been around horses off and on for her entire life and thought that she knew them – that is, until she worked with rescue horses.

“They are a totally different breed,” she said. “Seeing them come in so abused and [with] no life in their eyes tugged at my heartstrings. The desire to help was instant!”

It was this desire to help and let the horses know that they were safe that led Kaye to her volunteer work at Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue (RVHR), where she wears many hats.

She grooms, mucks stalls, mixes grain, chops hay and helps put hay bales in the paddocks. As is true in any equine program, there is always work to do, and Kaye said that she will do whatever needs to be done, including hosting open house tours, office work, and fundraising. Of all the things that Kaye does at RVHR, feeding the horses is her favorite.

“I love feeding time,” she said. “That’s my opportunity to see and speak to each and every horse. My special time.”

One of her favorite horses, Reese, passed away recently. Even though losing Reese was hard for her, she knows that there is still important work to be done and hopes she can continue volunteering for years to come.

“It broke my heart,” she said of Reese’s passing. “But I know he would want me to continue caring for the others. So, I’m still here doing what I love best.”

Bonnie Plevel
Hope for Horses, Inc.
Galt, CA

Bonnie Plevel credits retirement with rekindling her interest in horses. As a horse owner in the past, upon her retirement, she gravitated back to horses. She was volunteering at a horse rescue that has since closed when she met her namesake – a mare who was also named Bonny – a Belgian draft who stole Bonnie’s heart.

When she became available for adoption, Bonnie knew that she wanted to be a horse owner once again. Since she wasn’t yet prepared to tackle horse ownership on her own, she reached out to Anita Markiewicz, President of Hope for Horses, to ask for help. Bonny has been a resident there ever since.

At Hope for Horses, which seeks to help both humans and horses find a better future, Bonnie soon found herself helping with the other horses, too.

“I realized the opportunity was there to again help other horses in addition to caring for my mare,” said Bonnie. “I do what I can to volunteer. It is a privilege to do so.”

Sophia Soto
Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont Circle C Equestrian Center
Sophia, NC

High school sophomore Sophia Soto was first introduced to horses when she attended the Circle C’s summer camp at Keyauwee Program Center and has been volunteering through the Circle C’s Riding Instructor in Training (RIIT) program since 2019.

Soto said that she became more confident during that first horse camp experience and fell in love with the barn. The knowledge that she has gained through both weekend and summer programs has allowed her to build skills, bond with the horses, and serve the community. An Honor student at a magnet school for the Arts, Soto sometimes draws the horses of Circle C.

Her favorite horse is a Mustang gelding named Ritz. She described him as “the sweetest boy in the world.”

She explained that the confidence that comes from working with the horses is what she hopes to give to younger members who are participating in the RIIT program. Confidence, and maybe the knowledge that their work is making the world just a little bit better.

“The best feeling is when you have a child that is a little hesitant or nervous, and by the end of the ride, they don’t want to get off,” said Soto.

Learn more about Champions here

ABOUT EQUUS FOUNDATION: The EQUUS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity established in 2002, is the only national animal welfare charity in the United States 100% dedicated to protecting America’s horses and strengthening the bond between people and horses. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Contact the EQUUS Foundation, Inc., at 168 Long Lots Road, Westport, CT 06880, Tele: (203) 259-1550, E-Mail:, Website:

ABOUT ARIAT INTERNATIONAL: Ariat International, Inc. is the leading manufacturer of innovative performance equestrian footwear, apparel and belts. Featuring a patented technology designed to deliver stability, durability and comfort, Ariat pioneered the application of advanced athletic shoe technology into English riding boots and authentic Western boots. Ariat products are sold in a network of retail outlets throughout the world. For more information about Ariat products or for the Ariat retailer nearest you, contact Ariat at 800.899.8141 or visit

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Contact: Lynn Coakley