This past Sunday volunteers, staff, clients and parents of Riders Unlimited Inc. gathered around the grave of one of their recently deceased therapists for a memorial service while seven of her counterparts grazed serenely on grass in the nearby pasture. For the first time in their 17 year history, RUI had to make the difficult decision to have one of their horses, Sweetie, humanely euthanized on April 18th. Sweetie was a 30+ year old grulla mare that had been providing equine assisted activities and therapies to individuals with disabilities for the past 3 ½ years.
“It is never easy to make the decision to put a beloved horse down,” stated Rebekah Recker, Program Director of RUI. “It is probably the hardest part of my job. These animals are not just horses to us. They are part of our family. They give so much of themselves to our riders, volunteers, families and even myself through the activities we offer. We are indebted to each and every one of them.”
RUI uses specially selected horses to teach riding and provide therapy to individuals with physical, learning, mental and emotional disabilities. In the past when their horses were retired from riding, they had to find another home for them. However, since purchasing their own farm in May 2011, they have the ability to allow them to live out their remaining days in the peace and beauty of their pastures.
“We had just retired Sweetie from riding in January due to age-related health issues that made it uncomfortable for her to be ridden. However, she was still an asset to our program as a companion and for ground lessons,” stated Recker. “We had just initiated her into a test program for individuals with mental health issues. For the past couple months, a lady would come every day to groom and spend quality time with Sweetie as a way to overcome her depression. This lady was able to bond with Sweetie and receive unconditional love from her.”
Sunday’s memorial service was an additional part of the RUI programs as a way to allow their family to come together and grieve the loss together. Each of their horses is unique and provides something special that makes losing just one of them have an impact of everyone involved. Currently RUI has 10 other horses in their programs. The horses range in age from 7 years to 28 years with the average age being 17 years old. These horses provide therapy and lessons to individuals from Ottawa, Sandusky, Erie, Lucas, and Wood counties.
If you wish to learn more about Riders Unlimited, Inc., you can find them on the web at www.ridersunlimited,org; or you can attend their combined Open House and Community Garage Sale on Friday, June 7th and Saturday, June 8th, from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. RUI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All funds raised from the garage sale will be used to offset the expenses of their programs. If interested, they also have a special “Fiddlers Green” fund that provides for the care of any retired horses and the costs associated with their euthanizing.