"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion."
Once uttered by the famous American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, the words above might as well be plastered on the walls of the barn at Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding (SDTR) near Milton. I doubt there's a person on-site who would argue with a single word of it.
Run entirely by volunteers from an eight-acre site in coastal Delaware, the organization is celebrating its 30-year anniversary in 2018 and has helped thousands of developmentally disabled and handicapped individuals since its inception during the final year of Ronald Reagan's presidency in 1988.
Their motto, and there's perhaps never been a more appropriate one, is "improving lives one stride at a time."
"This program works very well with confidence building, with people who are dealing with all kinds of disabilities," says Barbara Lloyd, a local woman who volunteers with the organization on a weekly basis. "We have children as young as four years old riding each week, and to see the smiles on their faces when they're on top of a horse is really special."
Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding, and the key word is definitely "therapeutic," boasts more than 100 volunteers and serves dozens of individuals in the local area.
But the real stars of the show are the 11 horses who stroll around the Milton-area barn daily, creating more happiness and joy than they could possibly imagine.
Organizers tell us that there are special bonds formed every day between human and animal, ones that get stronger with each visit and with each week that passes by.
Take the case of a dark brown quarter horse named "Portrait" and a now 16-year-old local girl named Alyssa Hudson. The two have formed an impenetrable bond over the course of the last decade, creating many smiles, much laughter and even a few "happy tears" from time to time.
At the end of the day, the relationship between the two is really, at its core, what this very important southern Delaware program is all about.
"Alyssa has cerebral palsy, but you'd never know it when she gets on top of Portrait and starts riding," reveals Lloyd. "She's so positive and so happy in her life, and I think a lot of that is because of this program. When she's sitting up high and straight on top of that horse, she's just smiling from ear to ear and loving every minute of it."
Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding has been an integral part of coastal Delaware since 1988, helping thousands of people and changing countless lives.
But, like anything in life, it takes money to keep things up and running - to "keep the lights on," as many people like to say.
The organization receives no state or federal funding, so it depends on a series of annual fundraisers to reach its yearly operating budget of nearly $200,000.
Their biggest such event of the year is the annual barn dance that's coming up on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 6 to 11 p.m.
We'll include the flyer for the event at the bottom of our blog entry today, but let's tell you a little bit about it right now.
Limited to 250 attendees due to fire regulations, the event carries a $40 price tag, which includes a catered barbecue dinner, both silent and live auctions, music from the "Mason Dixon Band," and even some line dancing instruction if you're so inclined.
The event will be held at the SDTR indoor arena, located on Harbeson Road about two miles south of Milton. The arena is pictured below for reference.
There are many good causes and worthwhile charities in the Delaware and Maryland coastal regions, and we're proud to say that we support several of them. And that includes Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding and all of the incredible work that's being done there.
But any one person or one organization can only do so much, and we urge everyone to give SDTR some consideration the next time you're deciding what organization you want to donate to.
In 2018, SDTR is on pace to give 2,500 lessons to 160 riders, with volunteer hours numbering more than 7,000.
It's an organization that's widely supported by the community, but $200,000 is a lot of money and they can use all the help they can get.
To learn more about the great work being done at Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding, visit the organization online at www.sdtrhr.com or give them a ring at 302-644-1920.