By Carol Mowdy Bond
Due to COVID-19, the fundraising event for Savannah Station Therapeutic Riding Program,
9304 N. Highway 81 in El Reno, has been changed.
The program’s annual, live Galloping for Hope Barn Party fundraising event, originally scheduled for July 24, has changed gears. This year’s event is an online auction that begins July 24 and runs through August 7.
Executive director Andi Holland said, “This is our only fundraiser. And because of the pandemic we’re having it online this year through Ken Carpenter’s business, Ken Carpenter Auction and Realty LLC. People will go to Ken Carpenter’s auction site to bid. Donations for the auction already include a condo for a week in Florida, round trip airplane tickets, skin care packages, a Thunder package, Western cowboy boots, a horse wreath, and everything you can imagine.“
Bidders may get updates on the auction fundraiser through the program’s Facebook page, Savannah Station of El Reno, Oklahoma, and also receive instructions for how to bid.
Since 2013, Savannah Station has rented an outstanding horse facility with barns and riding areas, surrounded by prairie pasture lands, owned by Redlands Community College. The program provides hope and healing with horses, enabling riders with special needs to overcome physical and mental limitations.
Holland said, “We have 40 students and 7 horses right now. It’s the highest number of students we’ve ever had. The numbers are growing every year. The minimum age for our riders is age 4. At this time, we have riders ages 4 to 30. Our riders have 45 minute sessions, and we have three riders in each class. Our programs focuses on cognitive, social,
and emotional confidence. We are the only therapeutic riding program that serves special abilities youth and adults and their families west of Oklahoma City all the way to the state border. We are a non-profit group, so all our services are free of charge for our clients.”
People find out about the program through various means. Holland said, “We have a Facebook page, a web site, and we put out press releases sometimes. And people learn about us through word of mouth.”
“What we do is remarkable,” Holland said. “We get to see firsthand the difference a horse will make in the lives of our riders and also our 60 volunteers. It’s magical. We see little miracles happen all the time in itty bitty steps. Our riders are winners here because they succeed. Our volunteers are the magic behind our work.”
“Horses are different than other animals from a physical perspective,” Holland said. “They can carry us. It’s so helpful to those with physical abilities. For persons who are in wheel chairs or use other mobility devices, riding on a horse is the only time they feel that sensation of walking. The riders have to use balance to stay on the horse. We play games on the horses. Riders don’t even realize they’re working. They are able to increase flexibility, develop balance, improve coordination, help their breathing, improve coping skills, build self-confidence, and improve social skills.”
Equine-assisted therapy uses the movement of the horse to create muscle and sensory stimulation that brings about physical, emotional, and cognitive rehabilitation. It has to do with the rhythmic, repetitive gait of the horse. The movement of the horse gives the experience of normal pelvic movement in the rider. Riding the horse brings a sense of freedom that many riders are not able to experience any other way.
The program’s lesson are weekly and address a number of special challenges including Autism, brain injuries, cardiovascular disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, deafness, Down Syndrome, emotional and learning disabilities, mental deficiencies, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida and spinal cord injuries, visual impairment and other highly involved disabilities. Therapeutic riding is a proven form of valuable therapy.
“The healing relationship between the horse and the rider is undeniable,” Holland said.
“During the school year, we offer 45 minutes sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. for clients and their families,” Holland said.
The program is also a staple for the El Reno Public School district. Holland said, “The El Reno school superintendent toured our facility, and said all El Reno special education students would participate in our program. So, we have a service agreement with the district. We have morning sessions with high school students coming on Tuesdays, and elementary and mid-high students coming on Wednesdays. Preschool students come on Thursdays.”
Held only once annually, the fundraiser is critical to the Savannah Station’s annual $85,000 annual budget. The program relies on the community, sponsorships, grants and fundraising events to support the program.
Savannah Station has a nine member board, an executive director and barn manager, and PATH certified instructors. The program is a member center of PATH International, the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, which is the primary governing association for equine assisted therapy programs. The program is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies on donations, fundraising, and grants to keep the program properly funded and operational. Donations are tax deductible.
From Yukon, Holland holds a degree in communication from the University of South Alabama. She worked in non-profit management during her entire career before coming to Savannah Station.
To inquire about the fundraiser or other ways you can support the program, to learn about volunteer opportunities, or to get information about the program, call (405) 422-6239, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit savannahstation.org, or visit the program’s Facebook page.