2018 seems to have flown by, and we are amazed and inspired with the growth of our program. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our incredible participants, volunteers, donors, and of course . . . our amazing herd.
As many of you know, we began our program in the fall of 2015 with 12 participants in our Therapeutic Riding program. Since then, we have developed numerous partnerships and added multiple services. First we began offering Hippotherapy with Occupational Therapists. Now - in addition to having two fabulous Occupational Therapists, Amanda Cobb and Beth Crotwell offering services to children and adults, we have Stacy Pritchard offering pediatric Physical Therapy and Leslie Anderson offering pediatric Speech Therapy.
As we have grown, so has our Instructor team! Diane Kirksey joined us in 2017 as the Administrative and Marketing Assistant, and she gained her Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor certification in 2018. Diane instructs at our Collierville Campus, most recently working with our participants from Trezevant Manor and supporting Equine Assisted Learning through our Unbridled Horsemanship Program with organizations like SRVS and InDev Memphis. Mariah Johnson is our instructor at our DeSoto Campus. She was certified in the fall of 2017 and does an exceptional job teaching lessons at Lynch Ranch. Thanks to the generous partnership and support of the Lynch family, we have a second location to serve Mississippi residents. Jill Haag, our Executive Director and Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor and I have been working in our Equine Services for Heroes Programs with veterans from Alpha Omega Veterans Services, the Memphis VA Medical Center, and referrals from Kathy Miller LPC. New in 2018 we began serving first responders and have been privileged to work with several local law enforcement officers and firemen to provide equine assisted activities. We have also been fortunate to begin working with children from Youth Villages here in Memphis as part of our Making Strides Recreation Therapy Program. We are proud to say that in 2018 we have served 188 unique individuals through all the programs offered, and we anticipate that number to continue to grow so we can serve as many people as can benefit from the services we provide.
The new facility here in Collierville has not only given us a permanent home, but it has made it possible for us to offer services year-round thanks to our covered, partially enclosed arena! We are thrilled to offer lessons in the winter months, and have a more enjoyable summer by offering our participants and horses a nice shady place to ride. Our volunteers say they really like it, too!
Our Capital Campaign continues as we work toward making improvements that will allow us to better serve our participants. Thanks to generous funding from the Plough Foundation, we added two outdoor riding arenas, a SmartFlower solar system to provide power for our barn and arena, and funding for paving a new entrance and parking that is slated to begin in early 2019. Most recently, we were awarded a generous grant from The Assisi Foundation of Memphis that will allow us to build our covered cross tie pavilion that will include our new ADA compliant mounting ramp area - allowing us to have more room in the arena and making a safe place for participants to groom and tack their own horses!
Having locations in Shelby and Desoto counties allows us to serve as many people as possible and keeps travel time and transportation cost down for everyone! We have been so grateful for all of the hard work and the commitment from our volunteers to both facilities. Whether you have been cleaning stalls, planting and watering flowers, painting, or working directly with our participants in one of our programs - know that we are forever thankful to you and we couldn’t do what we do without you.
Our herd of therapy horses and ponies has grown, as well. As everyone knows, it takes a very special horse to do this job and we are very fortunate to have found several that truly are. This year we welcomed Rebel into our program in January, and he has worked his way into the hearts of just about everyone he meets, earning him the title of the 2018 Horse of the Year selected by our participants and volunteers. This quirky but sweet Appaloosa cross is most likely to be found working in Therapeutic Riding lessons or Hippotherapy sessions, and is always in high demand in all the programs here. We also welcomed Jazz, Quinn, Butters, Candy, Sampson, and Royal! Of course, we have to give a shout out to the trusty steeds at the Desoto Campus: JT, Flash, Fred, Possum, Torque, and Lady! Southern Reins unfortunately had to say goodbye to two lovely mares that crossed the Rainbow Bridge this year. The hardest part of working with these amazing creatures is that they don’t live as long as we do. Our sweet Baby was laid to rest after determining that her pain was not treatable. The heartbreaking decision was made to let her go, but she will always be remembered as one of the very best. Lynch Ranch lost their beautiful Dixie to a battle with EPM. She was one of the kindest horses who intuitively understood the needs of her riders, and her loss is felt by us all. Both of these mares touched so many lives, and they will always be a part of us.
As the years go by, we continue to be blessed through new relationships, community partnerships, generous donations, and the smiling faces of our participants every time they come out to one of the farms. We have big plans for 2019, and are offering 36 weeks of programming to include our second annual Summer Camp! We anticipate adding 80 participants to our roster and hope to add twice as many volunteers. The ever popular Jockeys & Juleps Derby Party will be held at our Collierville Campus for the second year in a row on May 4, 2019. Tickets are on sale now, so don’t miss the party of the year that provides much needed funding support to continue the great work we do in service of others. We have several new volunteer trainings already scheduled, as well as continuing education opportunities for current volunteers.
So spread the word, and let’s do all we can to show even more people the amazing power of the horse!