When times get a little tough, as they are right now for many people, it’s more important than ever to hold on to our dreams of the future. Here at the farm, we’ve had both challenges and triumphs over the last few years. The important thing is to never lose sight of the kids our therapeutic programs serve. Thinking of the impact riding has on their lives fills me with hope that this farm won’t just survive, but thrive.
When we first started out with 40 acres in 1993, I was definitely naïve. We had no fences or pastures, but I figured we’d have everything built in five years. Since we only had outdoor facilities, we’d put on raincoats and work regardless of the weather.
Of course, by “outdoor facilities” I mean we roped off an area and rode in grass that was always a little muddy. But we had fun. The kids learned a lot, and a great group of volunteers helped us build up the grounds. After years of boarding our horses at another facility during the winter, we finally built our indoor arena in 2007, which was pretty monumental.
Keeping the farm going is a struggle, but the nature of my work keeps me in touch with what it’s all for. In the early years, I was the one who fed the horses, cleaned the stalls, worked a job and came home to teach lessons, all while caring for our young son. One look at the kids who come out to ride reminds me that we’ve got to keep making this work. A grandma told me she never thought she’d see her grandchild up on a big horse riding all by herself, participating in an activity like this. These are things we take for granted when our kids don’t have special needs.
Our goal is to expand our services to include more adult riders. I would also love to establish an endowment fund to help us weather the storm when the economy slumps. By expanding our staff, we might be able to double our services.
People drive quite a distance to bring their children to our farm. One mother says she’s watched her son blossom here. He was very shy when he first came, and his speech was a little impaired, but at the farm he’s a different kid altogether. His mother is terrified of horses, but she helps us in all sorts of ways, making handmade “Thank you” notes and scrapbooks to help the kids remember what they learn.
It amazes me that the parents and volunteers who get involved in the program feel so invested. Some of them serve on our board of directors, help fund-raise and keep track of the Ps and Qs of the organization. People are giving us more of their time these days, which shouldn’t surprise me. This program is part of an exceedingly generous community of volunteers in the Ohio area and I am very blessed to be a part of it.