- Daniella Parra
The nine-year-old with the “braveheart”
Updated: Jan 1, 2022
Not many people can say they’ve found their future careers before they finish elementary school. Victoria Hernandez is an exception, finding her passion for life and creating an organization to help kids with special needs at just nine years old.
At the age of four, Hernandez rode a horse for the first time, not knowing how it would change her life.
“Horses help you relax…. they connect with you,” Hernandez said. “I really love them.”
Mother and equine therapist, Myrelis Aponte, explained that the first interaction between her daughter and horses was tender and professional.
“When she was four years old, we took her to a horse lesson,” Aponte said. “Even the trainer asked how long she had been riding, we were like it’s her first time! It was great as both my husband and I love horses.”
Though Aponte wasn't an active participant in equestrian life before, after seeing the passion Hernandez had for horses, she took it as a sign to become fully involved. She now works with her local church’s organization in equine therapy.
“Being in that world showed us therapeutic riding. I’m a psychologist and the years of experience I have with people with disabilities… just made sense,” Aponte said. “I got training to be a certified riding instructor, and Victoria continued her horse lessons.”
Equine-assisted psychotherapy, otherwise known as equestrian or horse therapy, treats those dealing with mental health treatments and illnesses, allowing them to interact with horses and nature. Its benefits are significant in developing skills in various areas and improving their quality of life.
Having been raised in Puerto Rico, Hernandez says that, despite her young age, leaving her life, friends, and horses behind to come to America for her father’s new job was difficult. Pursuing her passion for horses was a way for her to find the courage to keep moving forward.
Upon arriving in the U.S, Aponte connected with a friend who gave Hernandez the opportunity to meet horses and train with them.
“I fell in love with the mini horse and saved up money to buy it. I did chores, asked for donations from my family, and I got the money to buy my horse,” Hernandez said.
From there, the support of her family allowed her to take a leap of faith, and pursue horse training and show jumping from which she has since decided is in her future career path.
“I had to be brave and move on, and now look at the life I have!” Hernandez said. “This is a wonderful ranch. It’s lovely and I hope my life continues like this. It doesn’t matter how old I am, I want to continue this business and continue with horses.”
Hernandez named her family's ranch “Brave Heart Farms,” symbolizing the courage she embodied in moving to a new country and her passion for service that helped her find a forever home. She knew she wanted to help kids, and that’s exactly what she trotted after.
“It’s been a great growth experience as both of my girls have had the experience to work with children with diverse functionality,” Aponte said. “If you would have asked me a few months ago, I wouldn't have thought we would be here already. I knew it was a dream but down the road.”
Hernandez wants to share her immense love for horses with the world and hopes to go to the Olympics one day as a showjumper.
“I don’t want to go to shows just to win ribbons, I do it for fun because I love it and want to be seen in the world,” Hernandez said.
Although just nine years old, she looks forward to seeing how she can continue to make a difference with just a saddle and a brave heart.
By Daniella Parra