When was the last time you experienced an act of kindness that was so amazing it made your heart hurt? A gift for which nothing was expected in return except the promise to pay the kindness forward. Kid’s Day is a gift being given to children on the Central Coast by one very special horse lady.
Kid’s Day at Mindy Smith’s Horse Ranch
It’s called, quite simply, “Kid’s Day”, and it happens at Mindy Smith’s Rocky Mountain horse ranch in Arroyo Grande, California. Several times a year, for almost eight years running, Mindy has hosted Kid’s Day. An afternoon in the beautiful, back country behind Lopez Lake where it doesn’t cost a dime for a kid to ride a horse.
The first Kid’s Day was held on a ranch Mindy was renting while she built her Rocky Mountain breeding and horse sales business. Today, Kid’s Day is held at Mindy’s own immaculately manicured, 50-acre ranch. Mindy and her husband, Brandon Wayment, tend to about 25 Rocky Mountain horses on the ranch as well as a duck, a few goats, some chickens, a rooster, and plenty of dogs.
Mindy’s Journey with Horses
Mindy was raised around horses and she always knew she wanted to work with animals. She earned her Animal Science degree at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and began to breed horses under the direction and guidance of Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee, Sheila Varian, founder of Varian Arabians in Arroyo Grande.
Mindy started her own business about 13 years ago. “When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a vet,” Mindy explained. “This is so much better,” she says as a smile spreads across her face.
Rocky Mountain Horses are the Stars
Despite its name, the Rocky Mountain breed did not originate in the Rocky Mountain range, but in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. So, naturally, Kentucky is where Mindy traveled to purchase her first Rocky Mountain horse 23 years ago. She owns a stallion and has bred an impressive line of these beautiful creatures, many of which have been sold and shipped overseas to a group of German horse enthusiasts.
If you are familiar with the smooth gait of the Rocky Mountain and their amiable personality, you will understand why these horses are so perfectly suited for tiny riders. And tiny is not an exaggeration. If a little rider is too scared, or too young to sit up on the horse, mom or dad may climb up and chaperon.
Horse Riding and Buggy Rides for the Kids
In addition to the half dozen or so horses that get saddled up for the day, there is also a horse-drawn buggy available for rides. I witnessed one little girl who couldn’t decide if she wanted to ride a horse or go for a carriage ride. She looked at her mom in disbelief when she learned that she didn’t have to choose between one or the other because she could do both!
Volunteers Make the Kid’s Day Magic Happen at the Ranch
It takes a lot of volunteers to put on an event like this. At least seven or eight adults are needed to assist the children on and off, lead the horses and get them put away when the day is done. Fortunately, there is a group who has stepped up to the task, the Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer group of people to help out.
One Special Miracle Ride
“Most of these kids have never been on a horse,” Mindy explains. “I want to share that miracle with them.” I witnessed one such miracle with her last month when a mom brought her disabled son to Kid’s Day.
Let’s Do This!
The young man was deaf, mute, connected to an oxygen tank, and confined to a wheel chair. “Do you want to get your son up on this horse?” Mindy grinned.
“I want to try,” said the young man’s mother. “Great, then let’s do this!” beamed Mindy.
It took a volunteer to lead the horse, Mindy and another volunteer to ensure the young man stayed safely in the saddle, while I dragged the oxygen tank behind them. He couldn’t speak to us, but his grunts of laughter spoke volumes. He trembled and clapped his hands as he rode while we all tried, most unsuccessfully, not to shed a tear. You just don’t see raw joy like that very often. It was quite an emotional day.
Get in on the Kid’s Day Action
Kid’s Day is announced on Mindy’s Facebook Page. The dates tend to be rather random to fit into her busy riding and training schedule. They are typically held on a Saturday, but are occasionally scheduled for a holiday Monday. There is no admission fee and everyone is welcome. All Mindy asks is that you “pay it forward”.
Check out Mindy’s Rocky Mountain Horses website.
Read about how local Foster Care kids got their own special Kid’s Day.