TAILS FROM THE TRAILS
Saturday, March 30, was the perfect day for a tack sale. Not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, no rain. The sale started at 9 a.m., and I arrived shortly thereafter, bumping down Collecting Canal Road to the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center at 13300 Sixth Court North in Loxahatchee Groves. Some buyers had already been and gone; others browsed. Happily, there were still many items.
Tables and racks held bits, stirrups, bridles, halters, saddles, horse blankets, saddle pads, saddle racks, leg wraps, girths, stall guards, buckets and feed tubs. A separate trailer was crammed with riding clothes: helmets, boots, jackets, shirts and breeches.
Surely I could find something. Not that I actually needed anything, but you know how it is. When you have horses, there’s always something you can use.
Vinceremos was established more than 30 years ago and moved to the current location in 1995. The name comes from the Latin “to overcome or conquer.” It serves children and adults with developmental, physical and psychological disabilities.
“We serve approximately 125 to 140 clients each week,” Executive Director Ruth Menor said. “They range in age from two and a half years old to 75. Most come once or twice a week, and their needs run the gamut from physical to cognitive, developmental and autistic. We also participate in the Special Olympics Area Equestrian Games.”
The staff includes therapeutic riding instructors, occupational therapists, physical therapists and 23 specially trained equine partners selected for their patience, dependability and rhythmic gaits.
The horses’ gentle natures and rhythmic movements help clients conquer challenges associated with their disabilities, strengthen postural control and core balance, improve motor function, increase ability to concentrate, gain a greater sense of self-esteem and accomplishment, and enhance communication and social skills.
“All of these tack sale items were donated and are extras we don’t currently need,” Menor explained. “Sometimes people donate money, sometimes items. If we can’t use the stuff, we collect it and then sell it. We’re very fortunate to have so many generous people donating items. We appreciate their generosity. All money raised goes to support scholarships and our programs. We try to hold a sale twice a year, in the spring and fall. There are a lot of great bargains here.”
In addition to cash and items, Menor said Vinceremos can always use volunteers.
“You can be a horse enthusiast, but you don’t have to have a horse background or know anything about horses to come and help,” she said. “We always need people who can help with barn work, working with clients, computers, social media, paperwork, summer camp, fundraising and the scholarship committee. And yes, you can work with the horses, as long as you’re experienced. If someone wants to donate their time, we can find a spot for them.”
I was collecting a pile of potentially useful stuff: a bunch of feed buckets, a gently used girth, two nice saddle pads.
“Got any fly masks?” I asked.
“We had a few, but they’re already gone.”
Rats! I kept browsing.
Kim Elie is Vinceremos’ volunteer coordinator and program director. A horse trainer, she decided to take a break and spend some time at the facility.
“I’ve wanted to help out here for ages,” Elie said. “I started doing whatever they needed — pulling manes, cleaning stalls, grooming. I just fell in love with the place, the people and the horses. When the position came open, I filled it.”
She oversees the training and education of the volunteers and assigns which clients ride which horses. “I work closely with the head instructor to coordinate horse usage and make sure no horse gets used too often or too little,” Elie said. “The therapists and instructors help match each client with just the right horse based on the horse’s size, type of movement, temperament and the client’s needs. We all work closely together.”
“What do you look for in a volunteer?” I asked.
“A good sense of humor,” she replied. “A desire to do something meaningful. The work we do here really makes a difference to our clients and their families.”
Shirley Jeffery was manning the cash box and calculator. She was one of the non-horsey volunteers.
“I’m from Michigan,” Jeffery said. “I come down to Florida every year for three or four months, and I always volunteer here. I’m not a horse person. I help out with the fundraising. I enjoy watching the children and meeting the parents and the other volunteers. There’s a lot of love and joy here. It’s a very harmonious atmosphere.”
I looked over my small collection of items. I thought I was just about done until I realized they also had jump standards for sale at unbeatable prices: a set of two standards for $25. I immediately picked out four sets. Other shoppers were collecting their own bargains: a fly sheet, fleece-covered halters, leather lead lines. I ran into an old friend, Susan the Saddle Diva.
“I’m not looking for anything special, just looking,” she said. “I’m always on the lookout for nice leather halters, Western reins and Western saddles. I admit it — I have a tack addiction. I’m not ashamed. I accept it. I always come to all of Vinceremos’ sales. I love to support them. What they do is very important. Where would the people they serve be without them?”
For more information, call (561) 792-9900 or visit www.vinceremos.org.