When we started Riders Up! in the Fall of 2019, we knew that the children of our community and surrounding area needed a program like ours. What we didn’t know was just how badly it was needed. Now that we’re in the middle of our second full year, we are truly experiencing this need as we have children from all backgrounds and abilities come to us to receive our services. We work with kids that come from single-parent and divorced homes, kids that suffer from stress and anxiety, kids that suffer from behavioral issues, and kids that are on the autism spectrum.

COVID-19 didn’t help matters either. It just compounded their problems. New problems, such as parents not having a job, or having to move across the country, or school being online and in-person and back and forth, back and forth, disrupting their routines and the little consistency they have in their lives. And then, there are the aftereffects of it all. What really is normal anymore?

We have 16 kids in our Riders Up! program that all suffer from some sort of anxiety and stress. Starting out, we had visions of happy little faces brushing horses and trotting around the arena, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. The physical act of riding a horse has a way of bringing feelings up and out of a child. They start talking and sometimes crying. Sometimes a riding lesson isn’t so much about the technicalities of riding a horse. Instead, the lesson turns into a therapy session as a child begins to tear up, cry and talk about their fears and frustrations.

We have a six-year-old little girl that wants to be the last lesson of the day because she doesn’t want anyone else to see her riding. She’s afraid of being made fun of. She shouldn’t be afraid of being judged or ridiculed, but she is. Even though absolutely nobody at our facility would ever do such a thing, she’s terrified of it and it’s heartbreaking.

We often have children that are stuck in the middle of a divorce and or other situations that they have no control over, but yet they feel as though it is their burden to bear. They don’t understand that grown-up problems are not kid problems. They just absorb all of the tension and anxiety that they are surrounded with and at some point, it all comes spilling out.

Wood County has declared May to be Mental Health Awareness Month. Many children in Wood County are suffering from mental health issues and many do a great job at hiding it. We are here for them all. We are here to be the shoulder to cry on, to hear their troubles, and help them learn how to deal. The horses are here for them too. Our horses know they have an important job to do.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a village to help them too. You can help by donating to Riders Up! and know that you WILL be making a difference in the lives of 16 kids in Wood, Rains, and Hopkins County. The more the community donates, the more kids we can take into our program. And, If you’ve ever wanted to know exactly where your donation dollars go, in our program, it’s easy to be transparent – hay, feed, utilities, farrier, vet, and our riding instructor. Please consider making a donation on our Facebook page or here on our website. Every little bit really does make a difference.

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