Ryan Gunnerson has undergone 20 surgeries in his young life after being born with Spina Bifida and two holes in his heart.
The challenges faced by Ryan and his family, however, has not lessened their desire to have him experience life like everybody else.
Ryan is passionate about horses and has decided he wants to be a cowboy. According to Carole Gunnerson, Ryan’s grandmother, “He loves knowing that he can come out to ride one of the Pegasus therapy horses, and feel like everybody else who has climbed aboard a horse. Pegasus Ranch has given him direction for his life."
Pegasus Riding Academy offers therapeutic horseback riding, at no cost, to mentally disabled and physically impaired adults and children. Many doctors often recommend equine therapy and interaction to:
- Help increase full body range of motion.
- Increase confidence as well as give a sense of pride and accomplishment.
- Promote psychological and emotional benefits derived from bonding with these gentle giants.
Pegasus Riding Academy staff and volunteers have been serving special needs riders in the Coachella Valley since 1986, and have grown to offer therapeutic horse riding programs to more than 175 active riders each week. The dozen horses in the academy are available to take part in programs serving autistic children, the blind, severely handicapped adults and children, and stroke victims.
Pegasus Riding Academy will host its 19th annual Easter Brunch April 20 at Bellatrix restaurant at the Classic Club in Palm Desert. Proceeds will benefit Pegasus programs and will feature a silent auction, traditional "Horse Adoption," outstanding Raffle Bunny Bags; and complimentary parking.
“Raising the Roof”
In addition to fundraising to assist in program development the past several years, Pegasus has been trying to channel funds for a weatherproof roof over their open arena. The hours that school age children can utilize the facility is limited due to current school calendars and scorching temperatures that rise in late spring and summer months.
Just when a student begins to recognize improvement, their lessons must be placed on hold, and this can have negative impact on muscle strength as well as morale.
“Having a roof on the riding ring is a top priority,” adds Carole Gunnerson. “Kids need year round therapy, not just a short season. For some kids, it may be the only fun thing they do.”
- A roof will allow for shade for the horses and assist in deterring heat stress, which is a common equine ailment when exposed to continual extreme heat.
- More horses that can be rescued and adopted will lead to more horses to assist riders.
- Pegasus will be able to work beyond the traditional school calendar year.
- They will be able to bus more special needs children from the three Coachella Valley Unified School Districts and increase their ability to accommodate more riders.
For kids like Ryan, Pegasus Riding Academy allows them to explore a new recreation, instill passion and provide a sense of “normalcy” to their lives. A roof over their heads will not block their sunshine, but continue to expand their horizons.
For more information, visit www.pegasusridingacademy.org or call Kurt Campbell at 760-408-9495 and ask about the "Raising the Roof" campaign.