Sat, Feb

Horse empowers ranchers at Rainbow Acres living center

Joe, a cutting horse injured decades ago, passed his 30th birthday this year under the care of ranchers at Rainbow Acres, an assisted living center for developmentally disabled adults south of Cottonwood.

Unable to carry a rider, Joe might have been put down by his owners years ago, but instead, they preserved his life out of loyalty and respect for his years of service. How could they have foreseen their decision would not only save the life of a faithful horse, but also improve the quality of life for dozens of strangers?

Donated to Rainbow Acres about four years ago, Joe now lives at the ranch, where developmentally disabled residents, known as ranchers, feed, water, brush and curry him, just part of the curriculum for those enrolled in the Total Equine Training program.

The program exists to “empower lives through the heart of the horse,” Amy Elmore, program coordinator, said.

By caring for horses, ranchers learn about responsibility, companionship and much more, Elmore said.

“My hope is the program can be one of those transformative experiences for the ranchers where they discover some meaningful connection with the animals,” said Gary Wagner, Rainbow Acres president and CEO. “It gives them an outlet for caring, for caring for someone greater than themselves.”

In caring for the horses, ranchers learn anatomy, physiology, nutrition, grooming, tack and harness use, exercise, and stable maintenance, Elmore said.

Eventually, Elmore hopes the program will be able to certify ranchers to work with horses in the private sector.

“For me, my biggest driving motivation is for people to understand this population can do anything anyone else can,” Elmore said. “It may take a little bit longer, but they can do it.”

Because Rainbow Acre’s existing stable exposes ranchers and horses to the elements, excessive heat and other inclement weather interferes with the number of days the program operates. A new stable is needed to expand the program, Meryl Houser, a Rainbow Acres spokeswoman, said.

Plans for the new 2,400 square foot stable include a classroom, feed and supply store room, riding and exercise area, tack and equipment room, and multiple stalls, among other features.

The first phase of building is expected to cost $40,000 for construction materials. Friends of Rainbow Acres will provide the labor to build the structure, Houser said.

On Monday, April 26, Blazin’ M Ranch hosts a chuck wagon supper and Wild West Stage Show to raise money to build the new stable. Blazin’ M will underwrite the entire cost of the event so 100 percent of the proceeds go to the equestrian program, Houser said.

A pie auction and door prize drawing will take place offering a chance to win one of five prizes, including $1,000 in cash.

For more information, call 567-5231.

Greg Ruland can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail gruland@larsonnewspapers.com

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