On a peaceful farm just north of Oak Harbor, Riders Unlimited, Inc. made its home in 2011. The facility was just what the therapeutic equestrian program needed to thrive: it housed the Riders Unlimited herd in easy-access stalls, provided an indoor arena for safe and comfortable Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapy, featured an attached home that could be converted to house the Board room and business office, had wide aisle ways that could provide plenty of room for horses, wheelchairs, and observers, and it had the room to grow and develop with the program for years to come. Over three years of being owned by the non-profit organization, the facility has underwent many improvements to increase accessibility, safety, and comfort for all riders, horses, and volunteers. During a hard winter, volunteers banded together and gave up more of their time to ensure that everything remained safe for the herd so that the horses would be healthy and happy for when their riders returned in the spring. The time and effort has, however, taken its toll.
Extreme cold temperatures during the winter months called for an increase in care for the horses and the facility which cost the program more than it could easily manage. The program began to dip into its savings and investment accounts to make the ends meet. To make matters worse private donations dwindled and a planned partnership with a day-program fell through. “I think something that people don’t realize,” says volunteer Jennifer Keating, “is that the riding program itself doesn’t pay for everything around here. The families of our riders don’t file with an insurance company to have their lessons and therapy paid for, so we keep the costs as low as possible to make sure that the riders can still afford to ride with us. The program is not government-funded, either, so that means we rely heavily on donations and the good will of the community to make up the difference.” The result has recently turned into a near-catastrophic cash bleed. The program has received a couple small grants; however they usually have to go towards certain projects or purchases of special equipment, and cannot go towards operating expenses.
“Every month we have a meeting, and every month our accounts get lower and lower,” says Keating. “We really don’t have enough to keep going much longer without some help. If things stay the same, we have maybe a month before we fall behind on our mortgage and have to find homes for all the horses. If we get a little help from the community now, it can tide us over until some more of our fundraisers and events pick up steam. It won’t take a fortune to save the program, but it’s going to take a group effort from the community. I think we can do it. No doubt.”
Riders Unlimited, Inc. accepts donations through their website www.ridersunlimited.org, and a GoFundMe.com page, www.gofundme.com/902dhg. Donations can also be mailed directly to the facility at 3140 N. Behlman Rd., Oak Harbor, OH 43449.