By Tim Farley, News Editor – EL RENO – Children with cognitive and physical disabilities are teaming with horses and volunteers to reach new heights at the Savannah Station Therapeutic Riding program in El Reno.
But with any non-profit, Savannah Station needs continued financial support and more volunteers to provide the service that helps these youngsters improve.
That’s why the annual Galloping for Hope Gala is important for the organization’s continued success. The major fundraiser will be held 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 7 at the 10 West Main Event Center in Yukon. Tickets are $30 each or two for $50. Tables for eight people can be purchased for $500.
The event will include live and silent auctions, BBQ dinner, cash bar and lots of ways to help the young riders.
“This (gala) allows us to provide our service free of charge to the families,” said Savannah Station Executive Director Andi Holland.
Savannah Station provides an equine therapy program for 23 youngsters ages 4 to 18. As important as the money are the volunteers who donate their time and energy for the young riders.
“It takes more than money,” Holland said. “It takes volunteers who are the backbone of our organization. Without the people, we can’t add more students. For a student to ride, they have to have full support which means in most cases a volunteer leading the horse and someone on both sides.”
Savannah Station’s goal is for students to achieve the highest level of independence possible depending on their physical and emotional conditions. Therapeutic riding d are non-verbal.
“Their outlook changes on a horse,” Holland said. “What we see from their body motion is how tense or relaxed they are and if the therapy is working. Horses are wonderful mirrors of how things are going. Horses are so intuitive. If a rider goes slightly off balance they (horses) will automatically stop and they won’t go again until we figure out what is wrong.”
In most cases, horses used at Savannah Station are donated by participating families or have been purchased.
“We use horses that can handle all the pressure that’s around them because we have the volunteers and the rider,” Holland said. “The horses are docile, quiet, patient and very calm. Many are older.”
The horses range in age from 12 to 32 years old. The oldest horse in the program will be retired in May.
Savannah Station and its horses have been helping students since 2013 when the program started. The therapy program works in partnership with Redlands Community College and is housed on the RCC’s Royse Ranch facility.
“As a horse person, being in the presence of a horse does something for your soul,” Holland said. “The outside of a horse does something for the inside of a person.”
Savannah Station’s program schedule offers spring, fall and summer sessions. The spring session is 13 weeks from January to May. The fall session is 13 weeks from September to December and the summer session is six weeks during June and July.
For more information about the gala or Savannah Station, call 405-422-6239 or visit www.savannahstation.org/give.