What do acclaimed musician Tina Turner and REINS have in common? Believe it or not, a lot!! As powerful as Tina was on stage, that is how powerful our past season of REINS was. We were rocking and rolling!!
After a year off, no one was more enthused to be back in the saddle than our Riders! In June, 75 riders ages 4 to 61 mounted up for classes. Thanks to many generous donors, 47 of them received financial assistance through sponsorships. By the end of the season, volunteers had logged 2,375 hours as care team members to support our riders. We were humbled.
As a Board, it is our privilege and desire to lay the groundwork for the success of REINS. As a supporter you are an integral partner, and we couldn’t be more thankful for you! We have tremendous volunteer support outside of the season to maintain, upgrade and ready the grounds and facility for the season. Our facility is graciously donated for $1 per year! These elements lay the foundation for REINS, but to be honest, if it wasn’t for the Rider Care Teams that surround each Rider, all else would be in vain.
A chart-topping song by Tina Turner was “Proud Mary”. The lyrics talk about the big wheel – how it keeps on turning; and rollin’… rollin’… We look at the Rider Care Team as a well-oiled wheel. Our Rider is the hub. To keep that wheel a-rollin’ and serving the needs of the Rider, all of the spokes need to be in place doing their part to move the wheel forward.
One particular Rider, 14-year-old Brayden, wheels into REINS. Literally. Born with spina bifida, Brayden spends most of his life in a wheelchair. With his permission we’ll share his story. When Brayden first began his REINS venture, his Physical Therapist noticed improved core strength and posture and asked his mom what they’d been doing differently to achieve those results? Why, REINS, of course!! Brayden says “I was not crazy about horse therapy when I started but my mom made me and it turned out to be lots of fun. I’m glad to be a part of REINS.”
Our Equine Assistants are a key spoke in the wheel!! The well-trained and gentle horses are carefully selected to ensure they meet the requirements of the program and the needs of our Riders. In addition to the benefits received, Riders really bond with their horses! Brayden’s mount is Topaz. You can see the affection between them in this picture. Pat and Hollie O’Neil have been Topaz’s Horse Sponsor for several years. In their words, “We sponsor a horse because it is a good cause and brings joy to the participants. To see the faces of the riders and the volunteers and to help to give an opportunity for someone to ride a horse is very rewarding.”
Our Instructors truly make the wheel roll along smoothly. They spend much time, effort, and resources to become certified as a PATH Instructor. They are involved because of their passion and compassion. Passion for the positive influence of REINS for the Riders. And their compassion motivates them to put forth a selfless effort to help develop the physical, mental and/or emotional needs of the Riders. They deeply care for the welfare of every individual under their tutelage. We were privileged to have Morgan as an instructor this year. She valued her experience as well, stating “Being an instructor meant creating an inclusive and safe space for our riders to thrive. This season reinforced that practicing EAAT (Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies) is my dream, and I’ve loved every day that I’ve gotten to live this dream. I look forward to further developing programs to broaden our reach to serve various communities.”
Who is a bigger champion, advocate, or supporter of the Rider than their Family? Any parent wants the best for their child, and when a program like REINS is available, they’ll do anything necessary to reap the benefits for their child. Drive a long distance? Not a problem! Take off work early to get their child there? No question! Drag their child there even if they don’t like horses! Absolutely!! Because they love their child and want the best for them. And that is how Amy, Brayden’s mom feels. “We initially started horse therapy with REINS for the physical benefits. Brayden was born with spina bifida and has weak muscles, especially in his core. What we didn’t expect were the mental and emotional benefits. He has gained confidence from learning to care for his horse Topaz and to lead her independently. Another benefit we have experienced is the friendships that have developed over the years with other participants, volunteers and Brayden’s sponsor, Pete. The connections we have made are priceless and we cherish all of the relationships we have with these people.”
Every session that a Rider attends includes a cohort of a horse leader and side-walker(s) devoted to their safety and enjoyment. These are Volunteers who give of their time and energy, often sacrificially. The REINS experience is so uplifting that strong friendships are formed as the Rider and Volunteers interact throughout the season. The Volunteer is devoted to the success of the Rider and the interest is reciprocated. Often the Volunteer is motivated to continue their relationship with the Rider beyond the REINS season; and not only with the rider, but with the whole family as well! Terri led Topaz for Brayden this season and shared “I loved leading this superhero! And the horse was great too!” Mary has been Brayden’s side-walker since he started with REINS five years ago. “I agree with Terri – Brayden is my hero. Sometimes Brayden feels pain during the lesson, but he has such grit and determination that he pushes through it. He’s a profound inspiration and I’m thankful to call him my friend.”
There are individuals who may not be able to help in person, but they believe in the mission of REINS and can move the wheel forward with financial support. Many families with members of lesser abilities feel financial strain and a Rider Sponsor can ease that strain and open the door to participation in REINS. Even if a Rider Sponsor cannot be there in person every week, if at all, they find great joy in improving the life of another through their monetary support. They often build a relationship with their rider as well! Brayden’s sponsor, Pete, believes it takes a village to make REINS happen and feels an enormous sense of satisfaction seeing it come together. Even though hundreds of miles separate them, Pete was able to meet Brayden and his family and has developed a correspondence with them. He shared,“Brayden gives more to me than I could ever possibly give to him.” ‘Nuf said.
As we prepare for the future, our goal is to create many more stories like Brayden’s. Life-changing experiences for the riders, their families and all involved in their care.
We wish you all the best in 2022 and sincerely hope you will consider joining our team to keep this big wheel called REINS rollin’… rollin’… rollin’ down the path to continue to provide Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies to all who will benefit.