With its new location in a prominent place, across from Methow Valley Elementary School on the Crown S Ranch, Methow Valley Riding Unlimited (MVRU) has been attracting more attention. And if, like me, you drive past it a couple of times almost every day, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot happening on that 3-acre leased parcel, mainly involving kids and horses.
MVRU Program Director Annie Budiselich says that with the warmer spring weather ahead, MVRU is moving forward with upgrades and continued development of the property and buildings, to best accommodate the local students they want to serve in their various lessons, whose focus is delivering horsemanship programs that empower people and enrich lives.
Annie says she’s always been aware of the restorative power of connecting with horses, but in the past two years that understanding has been corroborated by watching kids mitigate the stress of COVID, fires, and smoke by “forming a deep connection with these majestic animals, learning to trust them, and learning to be brave.”
“We’re in a mental health crisis,” Annie says. “Working with horses provides more than just a healthy outdoor opportunity. Equine-facilitated mental health and learning offers healing through horses. Being in the presence of horses is grounding, it’s comforting.”
MVRU’s office and classroom operations take place in the front part of the former Crown S retail shop; BCS Livestock and Wild Plum Farm use the back of the building. They’ve also installed two portable structures: a tack shack (for storing saddles, reins, and other accoutrements) and a loafing shed (where horses get groomed and, of course, loaf around).
In addition to offering private, semi-private and group lessons, MVRU focuses on its two school programs: Let ’Em Ride (a therapeutic horsemanship and riding program for grades 2-6) and Horse Club (an offering through MVE’s free afterschool enrichment program).
Long term, Annie says, MVRU has a goal of its student demographic matching the school district’s free/reduced lunch rate, which is close to 50%. Relocating its venue to be within walking distance of the elementary school and the district’s bus transportation was the first step in making access to MVRU programs easier for the families who need it the most.
Fundraising and grant writing will be the next step, to generate scholarship funds to cover free and reduced tuition. Give Big, a crowdfunding opportunity familiar to Methow Valley residents, will be the first phase of this fundraising plan, in early May.
The six MVRU horses don’t live full-time on the leased field; it’s too small. So they transport the horses to and from various friendly neighbors’ properties. And in a mutually beneficial arrangement, two of the MVRU horses spent the first COVID winter with families on the west side.
“Seattle schools were all online that winter,” Annie says, “so it made those teens so happy to have access to these horses they knew from doing our summer programs. We loved being able to see our horses creating magic elsewhere.”