Hope and Healing Therapeutic Riding holds first fundraiser
By COLE BENZ
Hope and Healing Therapeutic Riding held their first session of therapy riding in May of 2016, and 18 months later they were finally able to hold their first ever fundraiser, Horsing Around.
The program was brought to the area by Robyn Mrnak, who’s passion for horses has turned into a career for her, and relief for others. She learned the practice at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.
“I wanted to bring that to other people,” she said. “So I kind of just, through research, found this program through Billings (Montana) and then I decided after I got certified that I wanted to bring it home.”
Hope and Healing is a non-profit and just finished their second year of lessons. They have spring, summer and fall sessions and had 10 clients participate in the program this year.
Mrnak said they take a variety of clients ages five years or older. The riding can help a wide range of disabilities, including physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. She’s also looking at starting a program for at-risk youth—which may include scholarship opportunities for those that can’t afford the lessons.
Mrnak said the program has been in practice for a while, but only recently has it really been studied to see how it is benefiting people.
From a physical standpoint, a horse mimics an adult human walk.
“They can be that person’s legs if that person cannot walk themselves,” Mrnak said.
She also said that people tend to form a bond with the animals, which benefits those especially with emotional and behavioral issues.
“[People] bond with these animals and can help them learn to work as a team, learn responsibility, social interactions,” she said. “A wide range of things, from a mental health perspective.”
Prairie Seniors of Amidon, Bowman Lions Club, Prairie Fitness and Ink’d Apparel by Sarah, Slope Electric Cooperative, and Southwest Healthcare employees all helped with funds to get the program going initially.
But “Horsing Around” was their first fundraiser they hosted themselves.
“This was kind of our first fundraiser for ourselves that we want to make an annual thing for Hope and Healing,” Mrnak said.
She said it went really well, and said there may have been as many as 150 people who attended, though she didn’t have an exact count.
“There was a good turnout of people,” Mrnak said.
They wanted to make sure it was a family-friendly event, and that there would be fun for the whole family, adults and children.
Mrnak opened the day up at the fairgrounds by giving some background on the program and had some of the clients briefly demonstrate some of their lessons.
“We demonstrated what we do in a lesson, did a short activity and talked about why we do certain activities so people could see what they’ve heard about,” she said.
The rest of the event featured a carnival-like atmosphere, and included a costume contest. Mrnak said the kids dressed up and brought their stick horses and paraded around in front of the crowd.
She gave a lot of credit to Julie Sihla and Linda Narum for helping with the event. But she also wanted to give a great deal of credit to the community.
“We’re so grateful for the community we live in,” Mrnak said. “Everyone that came out supported this program wholeheartedly, they’ve been wonderful. I just keep telling everyone this wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have the community support that we have.”
Clients and volunteers interested in the program may contact Robyn Mrnak at (701) 523-6407 or by email at email@example.com.