“This is why we get up in the morning and make horse shows happen!” exclaimed Amanda Diefenderfer, Paso Robles Horse Park’s Director, regarding the real vision behind running hunter/jumper schooling shows at the Paso Robles Horse Park.
The team at the Paso Robles Horse Park Foundation relish making a difference in our local community. The mission statement defines their purpose: “The Paso Robles Horse Park Foundation is dedicated to creating opportunity within the community to support relevance of the horse in today’s world and its unique ability to enhance education, health and quality of life, particularly for the handicapped and underprivileged.”
The Foundation has specifically focused on impacting the lives of special-needs children who are benefiting from interacting with horses through therapeutic riding. They do this through setting aside funds from the hunter/jumper schooling shows held throughout the showing season at the Paso Robles Horse Park. Schooling shows provide local hunter/jumper trainers and riders access to the top-of-the-line facility in an approachable, affordable and fun environment. The schooling show funds are ear-marked to benefit Little Riders – a local therapeutic riding program run through Jack’s Helping Hand.
Jumping into the Fun of the Fundraiser
The last of the hunter/jumper schooling shows took place over the weekend of October 13-15, 2017. The Harvest Special Schooling Show invited riders and fans to help raise the final funds purposed for the Little Riders program through the locally-based, family-focused, kid-supporting Jack’s Helping Hand. “We know that horses have the incredible power to impact lives. Therefore, the Park Foundation created the opportunity to support this piece of relevancy in today’s world,” stated Amanda when explaining the vision behind the fundraiser.
To build fundraising awareness and fun throughout Sunday, the fundraising day, a special Jack’s Helping Hand “option” jump was included in several of the hunter rounds and jumper courses. Riders could choose to negotiate this bigger, scarier jump as part of the course and got extra points for doing so. Spectators, trainers, riders and fans were all encouraged to pledge a donation for each successful clearance or make a flat donation.
Little Riders Got Involved with the Fundraiser
Little Riders program participants joined in on the fundraising day through handing out ribbons, experiencing a “course walk,” and meeting the horses and riders participating in the show. All this was planned to get the Little Riders kids involved in the show. These activities opened the kids up to meeting new people and in turn opened up the kids in new ways.
The more outgoing kids were on hand to deliver the hard-earned ribbons to the smiling riders. The kids took turns handing ribbons to the winners. It can sometimes be a big deal to simply say “hello” to a rider, let alone handing out a ribbon to a rider sitting on a horse.
All kids were invited to experience a course walk where they learned how riders evaluate the course and plan an approach to each fence while learning the order in which to jump each fence. “One child, who has a hard time leaving mom, joined me and some of the other kids on the course walk,” explained Amanda. “I heard a lot of amazed whispering behind me as we took off. I then realized that this was a huge step of confidence for this child to be following, separate from mom!”
A meet-and-greet with a rider was another special memory of the day as Amanda explains, “I set up one equestrian competitor to talk with the kids. The excitement from the kids interviewing her would have made you think she was a movie star! It was so cool to see these kids have admiration for the competitors and the sport.”
Reflecting Back, Giving Back, All Part of the Fun
The kids simply came to life as they enjoyed the day’s activities. Amanda reflected back on the experiences with the kids and horses. She realized that we often mirror each other in our insecurities or awkwardness. The beauty of interacting with horses is that they just don’t care about any of that. They treat everyone the same with no thought of anyone being different.
This is why The Paso Robles Horse Park Foundation gets behind the Little Riders Therapeutic Riding program operated through Jack’s Helping Hand. “Little Riders aligns perfectly with our mission,” Amanda explained, “We work to create opportunities to serve our local community. Horses have the incredible power to impact lives. The fundraiser is about giving back.”
Giving back is what they have done. Jack’s Helping Hand received $20,500 due to the success of the schooling show series and the final Jack’s Helping Hand jump fundraiser. The funds will be used by the Little Riders program for a wheelchair ramp and lift at the new therapeutic riding facility proposed at the Jack Ready Imagination Park in Nipomo. Now, kids in wheelchairs will be able to enjoy the benefits of connecting with horses.
Well the schooling show series is now wrapped up for the year. Donation dollars are staying in our community making sure special-needs kids and families can connect with horses through the Little Riders program funded by Jack’s Helping Hand at the Jack Ready Imagination Park. We look forward to more fun and success in next season’s hunter/jumper shows at Paso Robles Horse Park.
Photos: Courtesy of the Paso Robles Horse Park Foundation