A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home

What began as a donated ten stall barn lying in pieces, has slowly grown into a dream realized for the Little Riders program operated by Jack’s Helping Hand. The Little Riders Adaptive Riding program has been serving kids and young adults in the community since 2014 in Arroyo Grande. Since 2020 the program has been operating out of San Luis Obispo, and now lessons are being phased into the new facility at the Equestrian Center of the Jack Ready Imagination Park in Nipomo.

Come horse around with us in SLO County! Get your FREE Horsing Around in SLO County Hotsheet and enjoy the places to you can trail ride, stay with your horse, show your horse, and sip wine where there’s a horse connection.

Getting the Little Riders’ Permanent Home Ready

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
Little Riders Program Horse, Max and Bonnie Burt

As the donated, unused barn sat in pieces, permits, grading, arena development, education center and caretaker home building went up around the space set aside for the barn. “We designed the layout to specifically meet our needs,” relayed Bonnie Burt the program manager and certified PATH instructor. “First, we need space for grooming and tacking up horses, where students can participate. Next, a free-flow place is needed to maneuver horses to set them up for mounting by the riders. Then, easy access to an enclosed arena sets up a successful lesson.”

Little Touches Enhance the Riders’ and Visitors’ Experiences

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
Sensory boxes are accessible from horseback

In addition, little touches have been added for big impact. Sensory boxes of lavender, geraniums and rosemary are set at a height accessible from horseback. The feel and smell of these plants enhance the rider’s experience as the mind and body are connected.

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
Picnic tables right next to the arena

For lesson observers, picnic tables set up in front of the parking alongside the arena provide a convenient place to sit and observe. Even the parking is designed for lesson viewing from the car.

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
Max takes a walk over the bridge

In addition, riders can experience a guided trail ride on-property, complete with going over a little wooden bridge, smelling citrus trees, and listening to the sounds of nature from the saddle.

Equestrian Center Barn Raising

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
The ten stall barn was a huge donation

Once the arena, education center and caretaker home were finished, the barn was put together. “Many of the side panels had to be resurfaced or replaced, but the main structure and roof were in great condition,” Bonnie explained. Shortly after the barn raising, horses were moved in. Some of the horses are boarders and two is a program horses.

Barn additions and enhancements have been provided by Cal Poly Ag Engineering students. Student groups designed, built and provided the materials for several projects. Among these are: A super-sturdy wash rack with room for handlers and students to work together, tie rails for grooming, saddle racks for the program and boarders, plus stall signs with a white board for messages. These features and unique touches enhance the management and usefulness of the facility.

Other Uses for the Equestrian Center

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
Education Center Classroom

The adaptive riding program is the primary focus, but there are many other uses for the facility. “We’d like to see the horse community use this facility for clinics and ag education,” expressed Bonnie. A few boarders will help bring in a little income. Boarders have full use of the arena, the round pen, wash rack, grooming area and tack room plus Nipomo trails access goes right by the facility. Each horse gets its own box stall and attached run. The horses get daily turn out in large paddocks during the day. “We are not a trainer barn or a social barn, we’re just a quiet place for a handful of boarders,” explains Bonnie.

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
Grass turn out area with sprinklers

Little Riders Adaptive Riding Program

Phasing out the program from SLO will happen gradually. Currently there are two program horses at the facility with a few more arriving for the summer. Right now, an additional person is needed to build the Equestrian Center Little Riders program and to give it its place in the community.

Because most of the riding students are in school during the day, the majority of lesson time takes place in the later afternoons and on weekends. This happens industry-wide so its hard to offer full-time work. Even with the expense of keeping horses, Jacks Helping Hand sponsors the first year of lessons for kids and young adults who can benefit from the interaction with horses. However, students can continue in lessons beyond this time through private-pay.

Horses Connect with Humans through Little Riders

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
Max gets turn out time

So many wonderful experiences happen when horses connect with humans. “Horses are the magic,” says Bonnie, “they help these kids connect mind, body and spirit.” One young lady is now helping out at home now that she has experienced helping un-tack her horse after a lesson.

The connections made here are life impacting. Children form friendship bonds unique to this setting as they understand each other and share the horse experience. Parents connect with other parents who simply want the best for their children. Some parents simply relish in the moment of simply watching their child learn and grow, while enjoying a short reprieve from care-giving during the session.

Dream Realized for Little Riders

A Dream Realized: Little Riders Moves into a New Permanent Home
Jack Ready’s Imagination Park Development Map

So now the Adaptive Riding facility is up and running, as the lesson program is phased in. What’s next? Additional therapeutic riding instructors are needed to expand the program. What comes next truly is a question that time will answer, as the sky’s the limit here at the Equestrian Center of Jack Ready Imagination Park in Nipomo, California.

Additionally, Jack’s Helping Hand is currently working to build the accessible playgrounds that are part of the master plan for Jack Ready’s Imagination Park. These playgrounds will be open to the public upon completion. Jack’s Helping Hand plans outreach and fundraising events. There are a variety of ways to give to Jack’s Helping Hand.

Interested in volunteering, boarding or hosting a clinic and using the education center at the Equestrian Center of Jack Ready’s Imagination Park? You can reach out to Jack’s Helping Hand.

Come horse around with us in San Luis Obispo County! There are so many ways to horse around in stunning SLO County. To keep this info at your fingertips we have developed a FREE Hot Sheet that will direct you to stories which tell you where you can trail ride, stay with your horse, show and taste. We’ll continue to add horsing around stories to our website. You can stay up-to-date by becoming a SLO Horse News herd member. Get your Horsing Around in SLO County Hot Sheet here >.

More from Sharon Jantzen
Preparing for and Minimizing the Risk of a Flat Horse Trailer Tire
"There I was alone on the side of the road with a...
Read More

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.