VARHA receives donations to help provide for horses

By MOLLY BURKETT Staff writer The Derrick. and The News-Herald

Posted: Monday, May 5, 2014 8:00 am

The price of keeping a horse fed and healthy is something most people don't worry about.

But at the Venango Area Riding for the Handicapped Association, a place where local special needs children and adults go to bond with horses, the price of food is a crucial aspect of maintaining the facility.

Riding classes at the VARHA farm near Polk end during the winter months, but care costs for the horses still accrue. Caring for one horse per year can cost more than $1,000, including vaccinations and routine care, but the costs can skyrocket depending on the price of hay.

The farm was able to grow its own hay last year, but if the quality suffers or enough can't be produced, the farm must look to others to supply the hay.

"Hay can cost $3.50 to $4 a bale," Jill Rhoads, the executive director of VARHA, said.

When VARHA must purchase hay for its animals, it reaches out to local farmers and the community for help.

Last month, VARHA received a donation of more than $6,000 from A. Crivelli Subaru Inc. and Subaru of America Inc. through a program called "Share the Love."

Subaru retailers nationwide were permitted to submit a charity of their choice to participate in Subaru's "Share the Love" event. A. Crivelli Subaru Inc. chose to submit VARHA because of the broad range of people who benefit from the therapeutic horseback riding program.

Children and adults with special needs are able to participate in VARHA's riding programs. Even those confined to wheelchairs can participate in a driving program with a wheelchair accessible carriage.

"We have a long-standing relationship with VARHA," Michael Harris of A. Crivelli Subaru said.

But without the horses, VARHA wouldn't be able to provide the area with therapy riding for the handicapped. Eight full-sized horses, two mini-horses and a donkey fill the stables at VARHA.

"It came at a really welcome time when our funds are typically lowest during the winter," Rhoads said about the Crivelli Subaru donation.

Other fundraising events and donations are a major source of the organization's treasury. VARHA is preparing for a May 17 Ride-A-Thon in which participants will get friends and family members to sponsor them on a ride, and money raised will be donated to VARHA.

"Our events are very successful. We have a lot of supporters," Rhoads said.

Three fundraising events will take place between now and September. The money will be added to the general horse care fund to keep the animals healthy so the therapeutic riding programs can continue to thrive.