Reins from Above volunteer Michelle Baltzell grooms Lil' Bit, one of the 13 horses used by the therapeutic riding center near Kenly.
A therapeutic riding center that serves 30 clients with disabilities is looking for a new home and plenty of help from the community.
Stacey Ryder, director of Reins from Above, learned that month that she would have to vacate the riding center’s current home, a 22-acre tract near Kenly. Reins from Above rents the land, which is Millstream Farm Properties and managed by Bobby Lewis of Raleigh.
Ryder wished to keep quiet about the details of the split, but said the landowner told her the riding center’s current use of the land was “not what he envisioned for the property.” Reins from Above recently received county permission to use the land for more than therapeutic riding lessons. The permitted uses include everything from shooting classes to church services.
Ryder and the 70 volunteers who make up the Reins from Above staff have until April to move out. Ryder wants to be out by November.
In the meantime, the staff is scrambling to find a new, affordable tract of land in the area. The new property would have to be at least 25 acres and artially cleared for pastures, Ryder said, noting the high cost of clearing land. It would also need to have easy access to a major roadway.
Ryder is looking to raise money and find more volunteers. She has scheduled a Sept. 16 benefit ride at Buckhorn Reservoir to begin the process of fundraising and expects to hold more events over the next few months.
The staff will need some additional volunteer help to help get the new property ready for use by riders and horses. Ryder said she would be interested in hearing from any Boy Scout troops or community groups looking for service hours.
“Any donation of time, material and money would be greatly appreciated,” she said.
Through horse riding, Reins from Above provides therapy for people, mostly children, with a range of physical and mental disabilities. Therapeutic riding helps improve balance, muscular strength and coordination, Ryder said.. It also provides a relaxed, hands-on learning environment for people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, which often boosts confidence and results in better social interactions.
Kim Smithson, a stay-at-home mom from Garner, brings her 3-year-old autistic son Aaron to the riding center every week. Smithson said the therapy sessions have helped Aaron focus and open up more. He used to have crushing anxiety attacks that resulted in massive tantrums of lasting between 20 and 30 minutes every day, twice a day, she said.
Since they began coming to the center in April, she said, the number of anxiety attacks has fallen to two or three a week. At his therapy session last Tuesday, he appeared playful and talkative, almost indistinguishable from any other boy his age.
“If they can’t keep doing this, there are a lot of people that are going to start hurting,” Smithson said.
Ryder said she wouldn’t raise the monthly fee for families, adding that many of the families are already burdened with the cost of medical care and various forms of therapy.
Reins from Above faced a similar situation in 2007, when it had to relocate from Cleveland to its current location after the property owner died, leaving the land to heirs, who opted to sell the land.
Now Ryder is looking for a permanent home – a place where she and the center’s 13 horses can settle down for good. “It’s an opportunity for us,” she said. “Five years ago, we couldn’t buy our own place. Now we can.”
To talk with Ryder about land or volunteer opportunities, call her at 919-938-1556 or email email@example.com.