Charity of the Week: River Valley Riders

River Valley Riders
Non-profit utilizes equine and human volunteers to serve those with special needs
River Valley Riders’ mission is to enrich the lives of children and adults with special needs by providing equine assisted activities and therapies.  Founded in 1999 and a member organization of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), RVR welcomes riders from the St. Paul/Minneapolis metropolitan area and western Wisconsin.
RVR offers therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving lessons, taught by certified instructors, to people with disabilities. Benefits of these activities include physical improvements as well as cognitive and emotional growth.  RVR serves children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, developmental delay, visual impairments, emotional challenges, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injury, attention deficit disorder, and paralysis as well as other types of disabilities.
The overall goal of RVR’s current activities is to allow children and adults with special needs to experience the therapeutic effects of either riding a horse or driving a carriage.  A horse’s gait is similar to the human walk. While riding, this three-dimensional movement is transferred from the horse to the rider and helps to strengthen spine and pelvic muscles and to improve posture and balance.  
Therapeutic riding offers additional benefits, as shared by the parents of a rider:
10 years ago in our continuing efforts to find fun and therapeutic activities for our daughter with a severe developmental disability, we stumbled upon therapeutic riding and RVR. But most importantly over the years with RVR’s amazing dedicated volunteers, both people and horses (too many to name), our daughter found herself.  Wednesdays from spring to fall has been the night our shy little girl has grown and found better coordination, confidence, pride in her accomplishments and new friends. She looks so forward to these evenings! RVR is all volunteer run, serving so many with passion and commitment.                        ~written by Dennis and Susan Kane
These efforts are only possible with the contributions from over 200 dedicated volunteers who receive training to help the riders as horse leaders or sidewalkers.  Volunteer horse owners also share the use of their 25 exceptional horses and ponies.  Program horses are evaluated for a calm disposition and quality of movement. A couple of the RVR horse owners have participated in ACTHA CTC’s.  Therapeutic riding horses and great trail horses share many qualities.  Both jobs require that a horse be confident, trusting and tolerant.  They are comfortable and stay calm when experiencing new things.
RVR enjoys strong community support and relies on the generous financial donations of individuals, businesses, and foundations to provide and expand opportunities for its services. In 2009, RVR purchased 38 acres of land in Afton, MN with the vision to develop a full equestrian facility including indoor arena, barn, pastures and support buildings. Currently an outdoor lighted arena enables RVR to offer programs from mid April to late October. The new facilities will allow the organization to offer services year round, to expand its riding and carriage driving programs and also offer other types of equine facilitated therapies and activities.

For more information about volunteering or to support the mission of RVR, please visit www.rivervalleyriders.org or call 651-439-2558.

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