Along U.S. 31 just north of Reddington, 11 horses can be found grazing in a pasture when they aren’t helping children and adults with disabilities, victims of violence and abuse and at-risk youth.
Reins to Recovery Inc. Therapeutic Riding Center has found its “forever home” along a busy highway, which staff members and volunteers hope will draw more attention to the facility and all that it offers.
Programming resumed July 1 after some of it halted in June during the move from North County Road 1100W, which is 2½ miles away.
Even though everything is moved to the new facility and a lot of work has been done, several tasks still remain.
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The two immediate needs are construction of a permanent riding arena and installation of electricity and horse stalls in an existing barn.
Both of those things need to be done before winter weather hits, said executive director Calli Johnson.
“We have been able to utilize a temporary outdoor uncovered riding arena,” she said. “However, it has not been easy. With the rain and hot temperatures this summer, we have had to hold many indoor lessons, which has been very hard for the clients. They just want to be able to ride.”
A strategic plan is being developed to get the primary arena built.
“We have a couple options but need to financially make sense of which way to go,” Johnson said. “We are working on getting quotes for materials and labor. We will need to raise money or possibly look to community businesses for donation of materials and sponsorships to make this project happen.
“Winter is just around the corner, and we are staying positive while working toward our goal of having an indoor option available to maintain fall and winter sessions,” she said.
The other current project involves a place to store equipment and provide shelter to the center’s 11 horses.
When Reins to Recovery officials decided to purchase the property at 10861 U.S. 31 North, a barn was included. But it doesn’t have electricity, and it currently is being used to store items from the move.
An anonymous donor has agreed to install heating and air conditioning in the tack room at the front of the barn to keep it climate controlled.
The back part of the barn will include six indoor stalls — three on each side — and three outdoor stalls.
Kristye Lewis, chairwoman of Reins to Recovery’s fundraising committee, said eight donors have stepped up in the past three weeks to provide $1,000 each to sponsor a stall. One more is needed. Sponsor plaques will be placed on the stalls once they are finished.
The barn currently has a concrete floor, which is not suitable for horses to walk on, so the center’s staff is working with a flooring distributor to determine the best option.
As for the rest of the property, a house, a detached garage and a smaller barn already were on site when it was purchased from Elinor and Kenneth Shadley.
The house is being used as office space and for indoor lessons, which includes three mechanical horses.
The detached garage eventually will be used as classroom space, but it still needs electricity, heating and air conditioning installed.
A privacy fence that was at the old facility currently is being constructed around the small barn, which will house the three miniature horses.
The back part of the property features a couple of large fenced-in pastures — one includes shade trees and a couple of run-in shelters for the horses, and the other is an area where the horses can run and graze.
“If you just see them when they are out there, it’s just so peaceful here, and it’s like I know they are happy,” Lewis said. “They’ve got it a hundred times better than they did at the other place.”
Johnson said she is proud of the work that has been completed at the new facility so far because it all had to happen in a short time frame.
After learning in February that the lease with Vickey and Jeff Oliphant of VJ Farms was going to expire June 30, a capital building campaign for a permanent facility began.
Several volunteers stepped up in May and June to help with the big move.
“Every day, it was a different set of volunteers, whoever could come help that day,” Lewis said.
“When Reins first started, there were only a handful of volunteers, so seeing the growth in numbers in that area made me smile,” Johnson said. “Old volunteers and new volunteers turned up to show their support throughout the process. Volunteers who were on break week gave up their off time to help get us prepped and ready to start back in July.”
The volunteers included Cummins Inc. employees who helped take down the privacy fence at the old facility as a Jackson County United Way Day of Caring project.
“The feeling of moving was overwhelming; however, keeping the thought that is was to the Reins forever home was calming,” Johnson said. “I had many goals set for Reins from Day 1, one goal being that Reins would one day own their own property. To have accomplished this was an amazing feeling. Even more amazing was seeing the community, riders’ families, volunteers and staff come together to make it happen.”
Johnson said she already has seen several benefits of the new location.
“Visibility on 31 has been great as far as individuals learning about us,” she said. “Volunteers and clients seem to like the easier drive, which will be even more convenient once the 31 construction is finished up. The larger acreage will allow for facility growth and program growth, and the horses are a bit spoiled with a much larger pasture space.”
Down the road, the plans are to build a secondary arena on the property so staff members and volunteers can facilitate lessons in two barns at the same time.
“We hope to have a main entrance into the large arena with sitting space, viewing windows and restroom facilities,” Johnson said.
The second arena is needed because the facility is growing in many areas and all programs have a waiting list, she said.
When Reins to Recovery started in 2008 in Hayden, there were 10 riders, six horses and volunteers who began training. Now, there are more than 120 riders from several surrounding counties, 11 horses, six staff members, six volunteer board members and more than 30 people who volunteer on a weekly basis.
Johnson said the facility averages about 50 to 60 clients and 20 to 30 volunteers on a weekly basis. Three volunteers — a horse leader and two sidewalkers — are needed for each riding session.
“I am looking forward to the new possibilities of growth in all areas — clients, volunteers, community partnerships and the opportunity to provide resources to communities that are in need,” she said. “It is very exciting to think back to where it all began and see where we are now. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Reins and all involved.
“I am so proud of what Reins to Recovery has been, is and will continue growing to be,” she said. “I’m so lucky to be able to guide the organization and grow along with the barn family and community members who selflessly carry on Reins’ mission.”
Reins to Recovery Inc. Therapeutic Riding Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers therapeutic riding, equine-assisted psychotherapy, equine-assisted learning and recreational lessons to children and adults with disabilities, victims of violence and abuse and at-risk youth.
The center is at 10861 N. U.S. 31 north of Reddington.
For information or to find out about volunteer opportunities, call 812-350-4864, visit reinstorecovery.org or find the organization on Facebook.