What Shaped Me - A Note From our Instructor


I'm the owner and PATH Intl. therapeutic riding instructor at Hilltop Horizons. Hilltop Horizons and therapeutic riding, hold a special place in my heart, so I thought I'd take the time to tell you all a little bit about my background and how I got here.

Like every little girl's dream - I was lucky enough to get my first pony when I was eight years old. I joined 4-H around the same time and from here I started learning more and more about horses and became involved in shows, clinics, and community service projects. During my time in 4-H, I showed Western Pleasure on two of my beloved horses, one of which I trained from a baby. 4-H shaped my knowledge, experience, and love of horses and also taught me the importance of giving back to the community.

When I graduated high school and moved on to college at WVU, I took two equine-assisted therapies classes that were taught by the executive director of the nearby therapeutic horsemanship center, On Eagles' Wings. This is where I truly found my passion for the therapeutic horsemanship industry. At this center, I volunteered and gained my teaching hours to become a therapeutic riding instructor myself.

At the same time, I decided to move on from WVU to attend Chatham University in Pittsburgh. I had decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in occupational therapy, so that I could practice hippotherapy (another therapeutic horsemanship activity performed by a licensed therapist) in the future. Moving back to Pittsburgh, I now had the opportunity to begin my own therapeutic riding center, while pursuing my degree in occupational therapy. With these goals in mind, I completed a professional internship at another therapeutic riding center in the area, Nickers 'n Neighs (now The Stoneybrook Foundation), where I gained even more experience within the industry.

Outside of the horse world, I have experience with individuals with disabilities through my work in a community living setting for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Here, I really gained a deeper understanding of these individuals' needs and challenges, as well as the importance of celebrating who they are and what they accomplish everyday.

After all of these great opportunities, I traveled to North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center and officially completed my certification as a registered-level PATH Intl. therapeutic riding instructor. I was beyond thrilled to achieve this goal and began the process of starting Hilltop Horizons!

Hilltop Horizons is named after my first show horse, who taught me so much about horses, riding, and life in general. "Sugar", as we called her at the barn, played a huge role in shaping my confidence and self image as a young girl. I truly don't believe I would be the person I am today without her, and other horses like her, that have been in my life.

Today at Hilltop Horizons, you can meet my first pony, my show horse that I trained from a baby, and a few other special horses, who all help out in our therapeutic riding lessons. A place so near and dear to my heart, I hope that Hilltop Horizons can give to others what horses have given to me over the years.

Thanks for reading,

Ainsley Berringer