As wish child Elizabeth from Nebraska climbed up on Ginger, she squealed with excitement as she explained that her little Dachshund puppy not only shared the same name as this beautiful horse, but also the same soft brownish-orange colored fur. Fearless, Elizabeth hopped aboard the large animal as her mom grinned and said, “She’s really not afraid of anything.”
After Elizabeth finished her adventurous ride with Ginger and was given a brand new cowgirl hat, cousins and best friends Cameron and Landon screamed and cheered each other on as they each rode a horse and then greeted each other with a huge congratulatory embrace after they’d both stepped back to the ground.
With the support of Wheaton Van Lines, Pam and Larry Spain of Misty Blue Acres, have been giving children at Give Kids The World horseback rides at Keaton’s Korral for five years. This dedicated duo brings out their horses three times a week – on Thursday evenings for Winter Wonderland carriage rides and on Wednesday and Saturday mornings for rides at Keaton’s Korral.
Larry Spain explains that Keaton’s Korral stays quite busy, seeing about 80–100 rides a day. Of the Spain’s 12 horses, Jojo and Ginger are usually brought to Keaton’s Korral.
Jojo, once an underfed horse in need of love, was rescued by the Spains two years ago and is now loving life and spending time with many children. A few of the other horses they bring to Keaton’s Korral can do tricks for the kids such as answering yes or no, counting their age, sitting up and even retrieving, just as a dog would!
Pam Spain is a certified riding instructor with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH). She explains that horse therapy is great for kids with physical disadvantages because the kids actually use the same muscles in their legs as the horses do when they’re riding. While Keaton’s Korral typically needs the help of 10–15 volunteers, Pam Spain is also there to ride with a child on a horse if someone is in need of a little physical support.
The Spains say that the kids really enjoy the horses, and that the couple has witnessed incredibly joyous moments while giving rides at Keaton’s Korral. One of the most incredible moments for Larry Spain was with a New Jersey family staying at the Village. Their young child had never smiled or talked, but she absolutely lit up and came alive after climbing up on the horse. Larry admits he often wears sunglasses along with his cowboy hat to hide his eyes when he tears up at really heart-felt moments. Larry and Pam often receive thank you notes from families expressing just how much the ride meant to their child.
As brave as the children staying at Give Kids The World are, these little buckaroos definitely have the adventurous, strong spirits of the legendary cowboys.
Contributed by Amelia Klug