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Nearly 300 attend Fun Day at Rosewood Ranch
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Hazel sits high atop her horse while being led by Rosewood riding instructor Melinda Suppes. Other children are seen on horses in the background, being led by Rosewood riding instructors during Kids Day at Rosewood Ranch. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Ranch life is no picnic, except during one special day at Rosewood Ranch. The 210-acre horse ranch was clamoring with youthful cowboy bravado on Saturday, June 11, for the inaugural "Kids Day at the Ranch."

Nearly 300 people attended Rosewood Ranch, north of Pawnee Rock, where about 100 little ranch-hands rode horses, bounced in a rubber house, had their faces painted, gobbled hotdogs and hamburgers, slurped snow cones, took wagon rides, and frolicked on the playground for our hours.

‘Kids Day’ was an idea two years in the making — a way to expose children with developmental disabilities to Rosewood Ranch’s equestrian and therapeutic riding program. Their siblings participated right alongside them, as did children of Rosewood Services Inc. employees.

"We wanted ‘Kids Day’ to be a family event," explained Rosewood Services founder and executive director Tammy Hammond. "A lot of times, our clients’ siblings will come out and watch their brothers or sisters, but they don’t get to ride the horses. Employees here also have kids who don’t get to ride. We wanted to give them a day where they had that opportunity."

Tammy and her husband Eric opened Rosewood Ranch 10 years ago, three years after starting Rosewood Services as a way to help adults with developmental disabilities. A skilled horseman, Eric serves as a full-time NARHA-certified instructor for the ranch. The acronym stands for North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. Initially, the ranch only served adult clients, but with the addition of a few more staff members, the ranch was able to begin offering equestrian and therapeutic riding services to children with disabilities.

The Rosewood Ranch provides free therapeutic riding services to more than 40 children on a weekly basis. Some of the children participate through USD 428 and USD 495 school districts in Great Bend and Larned respectively. Rosewood receives no funding for providing the service to the children. "We offer it for free because we believe that strongly in the program for the children," Hammond explained.

"Parents even talk about how dramatic the results are from the program when traditional therapy hasn’t worked," she said. "Something powerful and remarkable happens between the horse and the human that isn’t experienced any other way. It’s like the horse becomes an extension of them."

The youth program is so popular that several clients who graduated from high school last year continue to participate while they wait to enter adult services programs. The state has severely cut social service programs during its financial crises the past four years, which has created a long waiting list of people wanting to enter developmental programs. "We try to allow them opportunities to ride one or two days a week; we don’t want them to lose ground or lose touch with us," said Hammond.

As for the second "Kid’s Day at the Ranch," it will definitely happen next year, said Hammond, either in May or June.

"I’m sure there will be even more kids here next year, once people hear how much fun everyone had this year at the ranch," she said.