Have you felt sluggish or stressed out about the higher temperatures lately? Well you’re not alone; some of your equine neighbors have been affected by the heat wave as well. And while it was impossible to avoid the heat, it was feasible to cope with it strategically, as participants in Methow Valley Riding Unlimited’s (MVRU) Pony Camp learned when they turned the hot week into an opportunity to understand how heat affects horses.
MVRU Program Director and Pony Camp leader Annie Budiselich says, “The camp participants learned that horses get stressed out by the heat the same way people do. We took the horses’ pulse and respiratory rate, and learned that the bigger and older horses were more challenged by the heat than the younger, smaller horses. Like humans, horses can cope with heat better if they can access shade, get wet, feel a cool breeze, and stay hydrated.”
Pony Camp took place at Annie’s property this year, as MVRU is in transition, relocating operations from Moccasin Lake Ranch, which has been its home for nearly three decades, to Crown S Ranch, across from Methow Valley Elementary School. Crown S Ranch is not currently operational as a working ranch and its retail store facing Twin Lakes Road has been empty for months, but the ranch’s owners were interested in having the space become an asset to the community, Annie says.
“Crown S Ranch is a stellar location to meet our current needs,” Annie says. “Most importantly, the location eliminates the transportation barrier that so many of our participants face. Many kids have no transportation or unreliable transportation, with parents working full time. With Crown S Ranch being right across from the school, kids can take the bus from school to the ranch, then get on the afterschool activities bus and get back to Winthrop and Twisp.”
“There’s a lot of need for equine facilitated mental health and learning (EFMHL) right now,” Annie says. “MVRU has been doing this kind of work for years — such as our Let ’Em Ride program — and with this move we’re going to hone in more on that type of program. There’s such a demand for it. It’s healing through horses.”
Annie says that although MVRU had to shut down for COVID, it eventually reopened on a limited basis, not for riding but instead for therapeutic contact with horses. “EFMHL became really important during the pandemic,” she said. “A lot of people were comforted by being in the presence of horses, or by grooming them. It helped them get grounded.”
MVRU has been using Crown S Ranch’s former retail store as its office, and plans to put infrastructure in place to be able to board the horses on-site and run horsemanship programs, although the move will not be official until the fall.