4-H riding program needs money to move building Moving, rebuilding will cost $60,000


The 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program needs moving money.

A building the group recently acquired to use as an indoor facility for handicapped riders is miles away from its permanent site.

"We have definitely put the cart before the horse," said Karen Scott, program coordinator and a former instructor.

The group, with $20,000 in donations, purchased a 65-by-150-foot warehouse at the former Smith and Reifsnider Co. on John Street in Westminster.

The metal building, however, must be taken down, moved across town and rebuilt at a permanent Ag Center site, which the county surveyed and improved for the group at no charge. BTC The move and rebuilding may cost $60,000.

"We are desperately dashing about trying to find money to move and put up the building at the Ag Center," said Bob Shirley, 4-H cooperative extension agent.

With an indoor ring, the program, established in 1978, will be able to double its enrollment, now at 48 riders, and eliminate its waiting list.

Outdoor classes will resume in September, but with a sheltered building, instructors could stretch the program well into the fall and start earlier in the spring. The building also has an attached lean-to, which Scott says is suitable for a stable.

Originally, volunteers planned to build an indoor ring, "but this building just fell into our laps," said Scott, who has been involved in the program for 16 years.

"It is hard to believe just how suitable it is for us and how good shape it is in," she said.

Westminster Volunteer Fire Department, the new owner of the John Street property, plans to build its new fire station there. The department needs a cleared lot no later than Nov. 1.

"The site has to be cleared so we can proceed with our efforts," said Fire Chief Jeff Alexander.

R & D Steel, a Baltimore demolition and construction company, agreed to remove the buildings in exchange for salvage rights from the fire company. Rather than raze the warehouse, R & D sold it to the riding program.

To raise money, volunteers have written grant proposals and solicited local businesses and riding clubs. They are hoping for help from Maryland Special Olympics, for which the Westminster program is a training center.

"We all know how much we enjoy riding," said Mary E. Shunk, head instructor for the program. "Everyone can see how much good this does for our special riders."

Physical therapists, doctors and parents all attest to the advantages of the riding program, offered without charge to participants as young as age 3.

"It improves motor skills and raises self-esteem," said Scott, a special education teacher. "To be in charge of 1,200 pounds of horse, to be the one guiding it, does so much for self-esteem."

Last year, two program participants qualified for the International Special Olympics.

"This program has been shown to improve the physical well-being, coordination and balance," said Shirley. "It gives riders confidence and courage."

Shunk said the benefits extend beyond challenged riders to the community.

"Our volunteers stay with us," said Shunk. "We have had kids change their college major because they have found they want to work with special education."

With about $200 in its checking account, the program will be hard-pressed to move and reassemble a building. Volunteers, however, remain optimistic.

"We own a building now," said Shunk. "If we can just get it taken down and moved."

Information: 848-4611.

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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