Children saddle up at Ride for the Brand
OWATONNA — Nancy Mowry says the comments from parents who attend Ride for the Brand keep coming back to the same thing.
“They just keep saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you for doing this,’” she said. Ride for the Brand is a new program this year in Steele County. Inspired by Special Horses for Special People in Waseca, Nancy and Monte Mowry, who own a small horse ranch outside town, gathered some of their other equestrian neighbors to create an event where children with a wide variety of disabilities, from blindness to brain injuries, can gather to spend time with, and on, their horses.
The organizers have been planning since December, and now it’s all coming together. The first evening event was held July 9, and on Thursday, the Mowrys’ property was crowded again with horses, children and volunteers.
For many of the children, Ride for the Brand has been like nothing they’ve ever experienced. Brenda Donahe, whose daughter Abby has Down Syndrome, watched Abby, on horseback, being guided around the paddock by volunteers and praised the event and its organizers.
“[Abby] is actually afraid of animals, so for her to get up on a horse is amazing,” Donahe said.
Nancy and Steve Hunt, who live near Medford, were there with several of their horses to help out. While Steve gave rides on a horsedrawn wagon, Nancy talked about watching children who started out petrified of the animals grow more and more comfortable with petting, brushing and riding the horses.
“That’s the sort of thing you just absolutely can’t put a price on,” she said.
Brenda Donahe said one aspect that worked particularly well was the size of the event, which cycled the children through several turns with the horses.
“What’s great is they were able to go around multiple times,” she said.
Monte Mowry said that’s another thing he’s heard from multiple parents.
“I had someone comment, ‘It’s not so many people there. It’s not so rushed,’” he said. “It’s really a good relaxing time, for the parents as well as the kids.”
Ride for the Brand will hold two more events this year, July 23 and 30 at 6 p.m., and Monte Mowry said there’s still room for more to sign up, and that while they prefer advance registration, parents can sign up the night of as well. After the last event, planning starts for next year, and Mowry said this year’s experience has been nothing but positive for organizers and families alike.
“We’re glad we’re doing it,” he said. “Everyone has been so forthcoming with everything. Problems and challenges really haven’t shown up yet.”
Originally published in the Owatonna People’s Press on July 17, 2015.