Miracles happen with Kids & Horses

At Kids & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center in the Johnson Lane area they have seen miracles happen, according to a volunteer.

Children like 13-year-old Aubrie Robards of Dayton who are developmentally disabled have a chance to feel a sense of accomplishment and just have fun while learning to ride a horse.

Aubrie's father Don Russell watched his daughter be led around the arena on Chief, an appaloosa, one of five horses at the center specially chosen and trained to respond to their riders with special needs.

"She's doing some steering on her own now," said program director and certified instructor Lisa Fletcher.

"She started coming out here when she was about 7," said Russell. "She absolutely loves it. She looks forward to coming out here every Sunday. It's been great for her. It's helped her tremendously."

Volunteer Carole Strehle agreed.

"I know," she said. "It's even improved her posture. It's wonderful. We've seen miracles happen here. The program - it really works."

Strehle said she thinks a lot of people and physicians still haven't heard about the 7-year-old program. June 3, the Sierra Nevada Active 20-30 Club No. 730 organized an open house at the 7-acre center to give people a chance to see what the program is all about.

Volunteers and instructors led visitors around the main building, the indoor and outdoor arenas and stables, as well as showing them the "sensory trail" and ramps made specifically so handicapped students mount and dismount their horses.

The 20-30 club donates money raised from its annual fundraisers to the center.

"The money we make at our fundraisers goes to programs like this because their motto is our motto," said Shannon Johnson of Sierra Nevada 20-30. "They help special needs kids, just like we do."

Strehle, who has volunteered at the center for about four years doing "a little bit of everything," said students come from as far as Reno and Bridgeport. Currently there are 26 students enrolled, and there is a waiting list.

Nova Lumadue, administrator and grant writer for the program, said they survive solely on donations, such as a horse trailer they bought with funds from the Reno Rodeo Foundation last year, and another grant from the foundation is in the works. The center charges $15 per lesson, unless the student is unable to afford it.

"We don't turn anyone away," said Lumadue. "It's more of an accountability than anything."

Fletcher, one of three paid instructors, with two more in training, said, "More than half of our kids are on scholarships. We just require that parents be able to volunteer a couple of hours during fundraisers. One parent comes out and cleans stalls."

Kids & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center's main fundraisers during the year are a barbecue and auction at Austin's Restaurant in Reno that was held June 7, the Topaz Ranch Chili Cookoff, a bowl-a-thon at Incline Bowl in Incline Village and a Pumpkin Patch event that began two years ago.

"We really like what they do and it's all based on community donations," said Sierra Nevada Active 20-30 Club's National President-elect Jennifer Norman.

Kids & Horses, at 2869 Esaw St., can be contacted at kidsnhorses@msn.com or 267-1775.

Visit the Web site www.sierranv2030.org for information on the Sierra Nevada Active 20-30 Club.


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