Our riders have a lot of fun, but they’re also working on important life skills. Some need muscle tone or balance. Others gain verbal and social skills. Every rider leaves with new self-confidence, horsemanship skills, and new friends.
In a recent semester, a child who had not spoken for nearly two years began talking. One boy caught a ball for the first time. Another polished verbal and social skills to the point that he is finding success at a first job. Every victory is celebrated by the rider and also our staff. To learn how to enroll your rider in the Turning Point Ranch program, please look through our Rider Forms and contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kenzie Oefelein is the Senior PATH Instructor at Turning Point. In fact she’s been coming to the barn for more than 12 years – first as a volunteer, then Herd Manager, then Instructor.
Now a grant from AmeriCorps – Oklahoma Opportunities – is funding her expertise as Volunteer Coordinator. Her new emphasis will be in Capacity Expansion, She trains, schedules, coaches and coordinates nearly 130 volunteers who lead horses and sidewalk in sessions, feed and doctor horses on the feed team and exercise or work with horses on the schooling team or just love and groom one specific horse in the sidekick program.
We wouldn’t get four horses well trained. beautifully groomed and happy to be in an unfamiliar arena for Special Olympics without hours Kenzie put in working with our wonderful volunteers
In addition, she coordinates the work of special groups who come to Turning Point to clean tack or help prepare for special events like Special Olympics. Here is the Perkins 4-H Club cleaning tack before Special Olympics.
And when it comes to celebrating volunteers with a movie night or special dinner or even a chance to dress up for classes on Halloween, that’s Kenzie too.
If you’d like to join the team of volunteers that makes Turning Point such a great place, just email Kenzie.
Baxter Black and Turning Point’s newest horse, Rosie, are mobile and mini – ready to serve people who can’t come to the barn.
Baxter has a big soft eye and has an even BIGGER personality. He has convinced the rest of the herd he’s a rock star!
Rosie is a mini paint and is delicate and sweet to small and frail visitors
Mini’s are a big part of Turning Point’s outreach efforts — visiting schools and businesses in preparation for providing leadership training to teens and life-enhancing opportunities for individuals in assisted living.
He may be small, but he is also a great horse for teaching riders showmanship skills as he’s not quite as intimidating as his 1200 pound herd mates.
“Little Black a Pony” by Walter Farley is a great place to start!
For the past six years, Turning Point has provided copies of the book to first graders at Highland Park, a Title 1 school in Stillwater.
The students work really hard on their reading skills so they can come read to our horses and learn all about everything equine.
The Field Day is packed with fun as more than 150 First graders, parent chaperones and Turning Point volunteers rotate between 16 activity stations.
The important outcome is that teachers tell us every child has been reading at or above grade level by the end of the year since the program began. And parent involvement is also up as parents and grandparents spread the word about the magic of horses.
When you come Turning Point Ranch, the first horse to the fence to say, “Howdy!” is usually Buck. He loves people and is always ready for attention. And treats!
Buck – that’s short for Buckaroo – is a beautiful solid black paint with a big blaze. He has been on loan to Turning Point for EIGHT YEARS from John and Caryl Talley ! That’s quite a long time for a horse to be fully invested in serving therapeutic riders. Buck can work with beginning or advanced riders to work through challenges.
He’s helped dozens of children over the past eight years accomplish what others said wasn’t possible. That’s because Buck is magic. And he’s irreplaceable to those who love him.
Here’s where Buck needs your help. In August of 2018, Buck came up lame. And, in Buck fashion, he came up REALLY lame. We like to call him “Go Big or Go Home Buck.”
This time, Buck was in too much pain to go anywhere. The OSU vet team came to the Ranch to take outdoor x-rays, give him something for the pain, soak his hoof and bandage him. Once the pain medication took effect, Turning Point staff were able to load him in the trailer and get him to the OSU Vet Hospital.
The x-rays were questionable, so he spent an entire week at the hospital and was eventually treated for an abnormal abscess. That one trip cost more than Turning Point’s annual vet budget.
Buck came home to stall rest at Turning Point for a few weeks – volunteers soaking and wrapping his hoof so that the abscess could drain and heal properly. Buck hated being away from his herd, but he LOVED all of the attention and affection from staff and volunteers. He was released back to the pasture and was fine for a week until he wasn’t.
More x-rays. More abnormality. More abscess. More stall rest. More soaking & bandaging. After a few weeks, Buck was fitted for a specialized shoe with compression molding and was released back out into the pasture with his herd. He was fine for a week or so and then came up lame AGAIN.
More x-rays. More abnormality. No abscess. More stall rest. More soaking & bandaging. No relief! More medical bills.
OSU veterinarians worked hard to discern what in the world was going on with Buck and, keeping our blown budget in mind, gave us 3 options to determine if Buck could continue as a therapy horse.
In January, Buck went back in to the hospital for a CT scan and surgery. Somehow, Go Big or Go Home Buck had a monster, abnormal HARD abscess in his hoof, pressing against his coffin bone, making it resorb. The surgeons and doctors were able to get it all out and the unhealthy bone that was damaged by it. Finally! Pain relief and hope for the future.
So, after another costly hospital stay, Buck is back on stall rest – again – being bandaged and spoiled rotten. He has to have very close attention from staff and volunteers because he has a hole in his hoof that you can pass a magic marker through – from the top through the bottom. So now we wait for that hole to grow out with the rest of his hoof. Which will probably take a good 4 more months… of stall rest or restlessness in Buck’s case..
In all, Buck has spent over 200 days on stall rest since August. It literally takes a village to not only keep him fed and in clean shavings, but also to make sure that he is emotionally sound. He is taken out to hand graze every day and has a couple of SideKicks who come out each week to groom and pamper him. He’s visited by the other horses at feed time every day and occasionally one of his herdmates stays overnight in the barn with him. Luckily, we have an open barn and he can see his herd from his stall.
As expected, we have gone through tons of bedding and materials for his wrap: duct tape, diapers, vet wrap , betadine and elasticon. This and those vet bills have really added up to a hefty sum.
That’s why we’re looking for “Bucks for Buck” to carry this irreplaceable horse through another four months of care. We are dedicated to his total health so that he can get to back in doing what he loves most…serving, challenging, supporting and playing with the kids….and his horse buddies in the pasture.
Rachel Royston is now the Executive Director of Turning Point. She joined the program in August of 2016 and has been instrumental in the development of the new Turning Point facility. She has also instituted a mobile mini program to take Baxter, our mini horse to schools, clubs, the library and other locations where equine facilitated learning can happen.
Rachel grew up on a ranch near Shidler where a horse named Dan essentially raised her as she helped with the family cattle and showed in 4-H. She got a horse of her own at 9. That was Comanche, a lesson horse who was done with kids. He mostly taught her how to fall off safely.
College took her to Alva and Northwestern for a degree in Mass Communications. She was on the Synchronized Swimming team which taught her to occasionally get outside your box.
Then her husband Chris took her to Indiana. Her first job there was with a large church planning international mission trips. Serving in countries like Yugoslavia taught her to bravely communicate with folks who speak a different language – not dissimilar to communicating with non-verbal riders. And how to change her leadership style to fit the needs of the team rather than the other way around.
Back in the US, a friend introduced her to therapeutic riding and she’s never looked back. She spent the last eight years at AGAPE Therapeutic Riding Center working with riders with disabilities, women fighting MS, inner-city youth and taking minis to schools, nursing homes, and churches. She is a PATH Certified Instructor, a PATH certified MENTOR and a PATH Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. She was most recently an Instructor and Barn Manager at AGAPE. Her most memorable student there was a blind barrel racer who literally used “bells and whistles” i.e. sounds to know when to circle each barrel. His fearlessness taught her the rewards of risk-taking.
Now, she and Chris are settling into the family ranch near Tryon with their son Gabe who’ll be a senior at Perkins-Tryon this fall. Rachel spent much of July getting to know Turning Point Staff and horses when she wasn’t unpacking or mowing. She says she’s fallen in love with Gizmo because he makes everyone look slim and with all the instructors because they are both kind and passionate about therapeutic riding.
And Rachel’s reputation has proceeded her. She has been a featured speaker at the past four PATH, Intl. conferences for fellow therapeutic riding professionals.
On paper, our volunteers are side-walkers, horse leaders, feed team or schooling team members, but in reality, they change the lives of our riders and horses. It takes both creativity and patience to coax riders and horses through our challenging sessions. But the rewards are HUGE. From holding the reins to letting go of the saddle horn to responding in full sentences, every accomplishment of each and every rider is a reason to celebrate.
Click here or on the Volunteer tag to learn more about joining the Turning Point Team. It takes training and commitment, but you’ll make “Connections for Life!” and have a t-shirt to prove it!
You can read all about Turning Point’s medals at Special Olympics in the 2012 Year End Newsletter but this picture gives you an idea of all the “behind the scenes coordination it takes to make it happen. Meanwhile Carson worked on his iPad when he wasn’t riding, Sarah was our youngest competitor and won her first medal but was ready to ride out of the arena on Dad’s shoulder and Ryan was thrilled with his participation ribbon.
Darin, Darrius, Chelsea and Sam worked nearly 12 hours to make sure our riders and horses had a great experience
Special Olympics is always a highlight of our year for riders, parents, volunteers and most of our horses. Several of them weren’t thrilled with the “Slumber Party” in the Expo Center barn the night before.
Our horses definitely prefer the Turning Point pasture even though Kenzie, Callie and Camille did a great job of tucking eight of them in on Friday night.