As equestrians, we understand how amazing the impact of a horse can be on a life, but so many don’t get to experience this incredible gift. Many of us talk about getting our “horse fix” out at the barn, but what we’re really saying is that horses are a sort of therapy for us; something that allows us to step outside of ourselves and focus on a relationship with another creature. Equestrian Therapy is becoming more widely used all throughout the world, and here in San Luis Obispo County at Partners in Equestrian Therapy it is alive and well!
“So many of our young riders simply struggle with talking out loud,” expressed Melanie, Director of Partners in Equestrian Therapy (P.E.T.), a therapeutic riding program located at Rancho del Rio in Atascadero, CA. “One of our younger students, a three year old boy, could not verbally tell his horse to ‘walk-on’. He would mouth the words to us but he wouldn’t say them aloud. Then one day he spoke, ‘walk, walk’. We all had tears of joy in our eyes. Now he talks all the time. He rides the newest addition to our team, the rescue pony, Bella.”
“Bella” (formerly known as Banana Split) is the most recent addition to the 25 year old P.E.T. Program, which provides Equestrian Therapy to children and adults. Bella was rescued from a bad situation in which she had been neglected, and is on loan from Cindy Nacey and Rancho del Rio. Describing Bella, Melanie says, “She does a really good job with the younger, smaller kids. We have several students under the age of three who have a hard time getting their legs around the bigger horses.”
Bella is the perfect fit for the little riders. She is especially needed as “Etenna”, a Norwegian Fjord Pony, and the go-to-girl who had been part of the program since its inception over 25 years ago, passed away June 23, 2016. Twenty-Nine year old Etenna’s contributions to the lives of the children and adults she impacted is carried on in their hearts and enhanced lives. She had been on rehab and passed away a week before she was scheduled to go back to work. The day Etenna would have returned to work, rain fell and a beautiful rainbow showed up surrounding the facility. “Etenna was sending her message: ‘All is well’,” Melanie fondly recalls, and went on to say, “Rainbows are very special to us here at P.E.T.”
P.E.T. also organizes the Veterans in Equestrian Therapy (V.E.T.) program, and they are looking forward to their annual Madonna Inn trail ride at the end of February. The ride gives Veterans and their families a day of horseback riding together as a means of reconnecting them. “Last year we had 45 riders – comprised of long-term V.E.T. riders, members of their families, plus some of our volunteers – riding out in groups of 15. One family had a brother who was deployed and this was very hard on the family, which also consists of two young girls. It was just wonderful to see these two girls go out and enjoy themselves with the horses and their family,” Melanie recalls. “The view from the top of Madonna Mountain is so beautiful, as you can see all of San Luis Obispo. The horses and staff were just wonderful. The lunch Madonna Inn provided was yummy and very ‘pink’. We had a really great day!” The V.E.T. ride is made possible by Madonna Inn, Madonna Inn Trail Rides, and The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo, and Bay Osos Kiwanis. Veterans wishing to participate in this year’s ride can contact Gabriel Granados at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of trail rides, the Work Family Ranch is offering a special Valentines Day trail ride benefiting P.E.T.
Spend the day on your horse exploring the lovely 100 acres of Work Ranch in San Miguel.
The cost is a reasonable $75 per person ($25 for a non-rider lunch), and gets you the trail ride, a BBQ lunch provided by Bay Osos Kiwanis, special music by one of the adult P.E.T. riders, and a commemorative gift.
This all happens on February 14, 2016. Come join the fun.
Enjoy the Work Ranch and support P.E.T.
Get more info and sign up on the P.E.T. website.
“If you can’t make the trail ride but want to get involved, P.E.T is always looking for support, as horse care is super expensive,” reminds Melanie. Donations can be made through PayPal on the website and can be earmarked for special projects or events. Volunteers are always welcome and needed. P.E.T. and V.E.T. riders come with a Doctor referral, which also helps P.E.T. develop the best plan for each rider.
It’s amazing to see the community coming together to support equine programs that so wonderfully impact the lives of those who really need it. P.E.T. and V.E.T. are excellent examples of people using their unique talents and abilities – and sometimes going without, themselves just to keep things afloat – in order to positively impact our community and society in general. The influence of the horse is well established and highlighted through these amazing programs and the people who help to keep them in existence.
P.E.T. gives a big shout out to several local business who gave generous donations in the past year: Ned Thompson, from Atascadero Kiwanis, donated hay…a lot of hay! The Morgan Family Foundation donated $5,000. Animal Care Clinic in San Luis Obispo gave $5,000.
All Photos except Work Family Ranch Photo: Courtesy of Partners in Equestrian Therapy and Veterans in Equestrian Therapy