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OSU-Cascades class saddles up to help kids

Cindy Cronin, a volunteer at Healing Reins, helps a student saddle up on Axel
Cindy Cronin, a volunteer at Healing Reins, helps a student saddle up on Axel. Janel Harlan | The Broadside

Natalie Carter
The Broadside

The Youth Communication Outreach class, taught at Oregon State University Cascade’s campus, is dedicated to empowering the lives of disadvantaged youth and making them feel like they area valued member of our community. There are nine groups in the class, taught by
Associate Professor of speech communication, Natalie Dollar. One of those groups has decided to dedicate their time to Healing Reins Therapeutic Riding Center.

Healing Reins has been connecting riders with special needs to gifted horses for thirteen years. Some special needs are physical, mental, or just in need of developing social skills. They offer these riders a place to reconnect with a world, as the interact with each other, the horses and volunteers.

There are three jobs available for volunteers; they can either walk along side the horse, lead the horse, or be a barn keeper. Their most  important task is to keep he rider safe. One student in the class, Kendra Rutherford, is a side-walker.

“I help my rider, Annie, groom the horses, get on and off the horse, and walk by her side as if to be her eyes and ears,” said Rutherford.

Volunteers work for an hour once a week, and the project will last for 6-8 weeks. Rutherford and her volunteer mentor from Healing Reins, Jodie Smith, have only been working with their rider for two weeks but they can already tell improvement.

“When I first started working with Annie [rider] she wouldn’t talk. But now it’s our second week in and she can’t wait to tell me all about the different parts of the horse. It’s amazing to see how just spending one hour really brings the riders out of their shell,” said Smith.

Volunteer Jodie Smith has volunteered at Healing Reins for the past three years, and say she enjoys seeing new volunteers joining the cause.

“Each horse at Healing Reins is special. They all have soft temperaments, enjoy people and are patient. I’ve also been happy to see the increase in young people coming out and volunteering. It takes a lot to buck up and brave the cold and the riders here really notice, ” said Smith.

Rutherford and her fellow group members are only four out of the 125 people that volunteer on a regular basis averaging over 7000 hours a month. All will continue volunteering at Healing Reins for the next four weeks.

“Even when the session is over I’m going to keep coming back. It’s a great experience,” said Rutherford.

Horse and rider
Janal Harlan | the Broadside

To learn how to become a volunteer or for more information call 541-382-9410 or visit healingreins.org.

You can Contact Natalie Carter at ncarter@cocc.edu

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