Special creatures for special people can teach lessons that last a lifetime. The nonprofit therapeutic organization known as "Southern Reins" just needed a special place all its own.
Southern Reins, an equine therapy program with an outreach in DeSoto County, began as a means of assisting special needs children using horses much in the same manner that therapy dogs provide assistance.
The organization was founded in July 2015 by Ginna Rauls and Courtney Smith with the intent on helping special needs children.
Through word of mouth, the business began to grow and the success of the operation signaled expansion and growth. “We needed room with a covered arena,” Rauls said. “So we bought land in Collierville.”
But with that growth, and with students in Northern Mississippi in need, the two women approached the Lynch brothers in Nesbit, who had exactly what they needed, and offered to accommodate the program at their property in DeSoto County.
Lynch Ranch is located off Fogg Road in the rolling pastureland of western DeSoto County.
“Our land, barns, and horses gave Southern Reins exactly what they needed and them being on our property, has been a real blessing to us,” Adam Lynch said, dusting the delta dirt from his jeans. Lynch Ranch – located at 2910 Fogg Road – was exactly what was needed.
Consequently, a branch affiliate was established in Hernando and although the majority of students are still accommodated in Collierville, Tenn., 15 students use the Lynch Ranch location in Nesbit on a regular basis.
This past Tuesday evening Southern Reins celebrated its inaugural horse show event at the Lynch Ranch. In attendance, and participating, were also youth and adults from the Baddour Center in Senatobia.
“We don't have a horse therapy program at our facility,” said Melissa Baker, Director of Community Life at the Baddour Center, “But we used to have one. Today we've brought five students. We knew there was a need, having discussed the matter at our annual meeting to consider what's best for our residents, and a horse program has always been tops on the things they desired most."
Kyle McConnell is one of those students who has wanted a horse therapy program for several years and who was in attendance at the Lynch Ranch.
“I had horses when I lived in Colorado, but I was having a hard time at home not fitting in. So my family arranged for me to come to the Baddour Center and it's become a second home to me that I call my 'home-home',” he smiled.
McConnell, by all accounts, is a unique young man, devoting himself at Baddour Center to train for the National Special Olympics Games that will take place this year in Seattle, Wash.
He also works at the Baddour Center in the community's green house and enjoys it immensely.
“Yeah, I like it," McConnell said. "It's made a big difference in my life because I have something productive to do, plus I'm near animals,” he added with a grin.
The therapy horse program available through Southern Reins is designed for children from 8 to 18 years old, but includes provision for even older students, and the experience of being close to, touching, and riding a horse brings smiles to the students. All of the horses used in the program are gentle-natured with the students.
After the event, a barbecue cookout was provided for everyone. “We set out a potluck meal of hamburgers, pizza, chips and drinks for everyone involved,” said Lynch. The food and festivities capped a evening of fun for both the children and their families, and those who operate Southern Reins and The Baddour Center were all smiles seeing the students they work with enjoying themselves.
“We love seeing how the programs benefit the children and students, and it makes us proud to be able to offer Southern Reins a location where they can realize the greatest benefit to all involved,” Lynch said.
Mike Lee is a features writer for CLICK Magazine.