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Sunrise horse therapy program appeals for donations amidst pandemic

Sunrise Therapeutic Riding & Learning Centre is looking for donations to maintain its therapy horses
Sunrise Therapeutic Riding & Learning Centre is located at 6920 Concession 1 in Puslinch. Keegan Kozolanka/GuelphToday

PUSLINCH – Sunrise Therapeutic Riding & Learning Centre is asking for monetary donations to maintain care for their therapy horses.

Sunrise, which has been in the Guelph area for 38 years, uses therapy horses for children and adults with a wide-range of disabilities.

Ann Caine, president of Sunrise’s board of directors, said putting a person with a disability on a therapy horse gives a sense of control for a person who may be under near-constant care of others.  

“That’s the feeling they get, ‘I’m up here and I’m in control,’” Caine said. “That’s an incredible empowerment for someone who has always relied on other people.”

As a registered charity, Sunrise runs a variety of programs for children and adults with or without disabilities. These programs encourage life skills, mental wellness and empowerment through horse riding. 

This has all come to a halt in the midst of a pandemic. 

“Everything was closed down at the beginning of March break when the schools decided they were closing for three weeks, our programming was stopped right away,” Caine said. 

Sunrise has had to layoff staff because they have a lack of cash flow and they still have 21 horses to take care of. Donations will go towards feeding, maintaining and training the horses.  

“Some of them are quite young horses and they’re being trained for the program,” Caine said. “We have to keep that because we know that when everything is back to normal, our children and adults will want to get back to seeing their horses again.”

“We can’t just throw them into the program, they have to be ready to go.”

Caine explained that for many of the children and adults with disabilities, all therapy programming has stopped including physio, occupational, speech-language and more. 

“With the horse therapy, there’s an added dimension of connection to their horse,” Caine said. “A lot of them are really missing their horses.”

Caine said she understands horses are not at the top of anybody’s mind but to her the program is integral to a lot of families in the region.

“We know how important this is in the lives of these young people,” Caine said. “So many families say, ‘It’s changed our lives, it’s changed our families.’”

Caine said the response to their appeal for donations has already been incredible, much of it coming from rider families and volunteers with the program. Caine said she thinks it's because they understand how important the horses are. 

“They’re the backbone of our program, there wouldn’t be a program without the horses,” Caine said. 

Donations to Sunrise can be sent by: