AFTON, Minnesota — Confidence, self-esteem, improvements to coordination and balance, those are just some of the results people with special needs are seeing with River Valley Riders.
"Riders can just openly be themselves with their horses. They don't have to prove anything to the horse and they can have fun," explained Cheryl Holt, Executive Director.
The Afton-based nonprofit, specializes in equine assisted therapy for those who are young and young at heart. They've had riders as old as 90!
While there are similar therapy organizations, Holt says there's one tool in RVR's stable that sets it apart from the rest: "We do provide carriage driving. It is a carriage that has a lift on it so people in wheelchairs can use the carriage," Holt said.
The specialized carriage helps people who may not have the core strength to be able to sit on a horse. River Valley Riders is the only program in Minnesota that offers that experience.
Helping RVR's riders take the reigns are hundreds of volunteers.
"Many of our riders take up to at least three volunteers each to be able to ride. So we have two side walkers that provide stability to those that need it and a horse leader," explained Holt.
And no rider can go off into the sunset without the help of the volunteer horses. The program only owns two, the rest come from people who want to help.
The program typically begins in April and continues through the end of October, giving participants consistency to improve their core strength and work on their goals.
Because of the pandemic, River Valley Riders and its volunteers are waiting until 2021 to resume lessons and therapy.
As you can imagine, it's hit the nonprofit pretty hard financially, that's why it's a good time to mention the "Walk, Wheel and Ride-a-thon" fundraiser.
To participate: Make a personal gift or collect donations from your family and friends. You can download a pledge form or set up an online fundraising page to share by email and on social media. You choose the activity, distance, on your own or with your family and friends.
A minimum total donation amount is required to receive:
- Long sleeve T-shirt......$75.00 individual or $150.00 family
- And Sweatshirt........$500.00 individual or $1,000.00 family
T-shirts and sweatshirts will be distributed after the event. Request your shirt size(s) when you register.
Each donation will be doubled up to $300,000 with the help of a grant from the FS Foundation.
Learn more about the "Walk, Wheel and Ride-a-thon" fundraiser here.