COLUMBIA, Mo.—Veterans and their families can get a free ride on Saturday, Nov. 10. A ride on horseback, that is.

Katherine Knott, a freshman journalism student at the University of Missouri, is hosting an open house for her family’s organization, Horses 4 Heroes, to honor the area’s veterans. The free event will take place 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Trowbridge Livestock Center on the MU campus. Activities include free horse rides, prizes, including a mini-vacation package to Branson, and other family-friendly fun. 

Horses 4 Heroes is a national network of barn owners who are willing to offer a variety of horse-related activities at reduced cost to military families and other public heroes such as firefighters and law enforcement personnel. The barns may offer anything from discounted riding lessons to summer camps.

Owning your own horse is expensive, Katherine said. For many military families it’s especially difficult because they move frequently.

By taking riding lessons or other services at a barn, a family can have a “no-strings-attached” horse experience.

The organization began with six horses on the Knotts’ one-acre ranch in Las Vegas, only a few blocks from the Strip. The family invited kids to come to their barn and ride horses instead of staying in after-school care, Katherine said. Her older sister, Allison, officially founded the organization in 2006. Their mother, Sydney, is the executive director.

When several military families that participated in the program at the Knott ranch had to move to new bases, Sydney Knott made calls near the families’ new homes, asking barns if they would participate in Horses 4 Heroes. After six years, the Horses 4 Heroes herd has grown from one barn to more than 190 across the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s a family program,” Sydney said. “When a mother or father is deployed, it’s a wonderful distraction. And when the parent comes home they can’t wait to see what their family has been doing.”

The experience of working with a horse offers other benefits, too. “Horses teach respect, responsibility and build your self-confidence,” Sydney said. “The way you approach a horse is different. You get them to trust and respect you in return. You have to make them believe you are a good person.”

Sydney’s inspiration for the program began when her father was sick. A hospice nurse who came to his house to care for him had to bring her grandson along. Sydney started taking the nurse’s grandson to the ranch to ride horses while his grandmother took care of her father.

She thought about all the other people in the community who served, including military personnel, firefighters and police officers. Sydney said she noticed the community would really help the families of those who had died. Her question was, Why can’t we do that for them while they’re alive?

The program is the Knott family’s way of saying thank you to all those serving the community while they’re still alive to hear it, she said.

For more information about Horses 4 Heroes, call 702-461-4171, email [email protected] or go to An event flyer can be downloaded at

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