By Nicole MOORE
On Friday, the Pasadena Ladies Auxiliary held its annual membership luncheon and auction. All profits from the event were earmarked for Ahead with Horses, a nonprofit organization.
Ahead with Horses, located in Shadow Hills, offers therapeutic interactions between horses and children with disabilities. The organization is 48 years old.
Michelle Newman, executive director of Ahead with Horses, has been a part of the organization since 1999. In addition to planning events for the nonprofit, she is a riding instructor.
“Getting to work with the children and to see how they improve [during each session] is amazing,” said Newman.
Wendy Andre, whose son Jonathan, 18, is a member of Ahead with Horses, expressed her gratitude for the organization.
“It’s his form of baseball,” Andre said. “He’s able to relate to the horses and to move around.”
Arlene Latino, a board member for the organization, added, “It’s absolutely incredible. You get to see the relationship between the kids and horses while they are exercising in the fresh air. You can see the kids grow in strength. They have a wonderful time. It’s so beneficial for me to see.”
Before the auction of holiday-themed gift baskets, Beth Muraida, another Ahead with Horses board member, spoke about the 23-year journey she and her son Adam have had with the organization. She began her speech by asking attendees of the luncheon to raise their hands if they have a loved one with special needs. A majority of the luncheon attendees raised their hands high into the air.
Muraida then explained there were are limited resources and support systems in 1988 for her to learn more about her son’s disability, cerebral palsy, when he was born. However, when Adam was 7 years old, a family friend suggested Ahead with Horses to the Muraidas. They attended the organization’s annual “Fun Day” event and were surprised to see a limousine outside the ranch belonging to President Ronald Reagan, a donor to the non-profit.
“After knowing President Reagan was donating a horse, we thought this must be a good program and we had better try it,” said Muraida with a laugh.
“During ‘Fun Day’ all the children and volunteers march up to the arena under the wonderful California sky [with temperatures] that could reach up to 100 degrees. They cue up the most inspirational music and the children board Clydesdales and Draft horses and ride around the ring. [The children] are able to do all kinds of body manipulation and their big smiles still bring tears to my eyes,” Muraida shared.
She listed additional benefits the program, including socialization for children with disabilities. She added that the strength of many children, as well as their walking abilities, communication, and behavioral issues, improved after being a part of Ahead with Horses.
Ahead with Horses is currently looking for volunteers. On Saturdays at 8:45 a.m. the ranch holds an orientation for those interesting in helping. For more information, visit http://aheadwithhorsesla.org.