By LAURA QUEZADA
News Review Staff Writer
Saddle up. It time for a Play Day at C & C Training Stables, 1527 South Gateway Boulevard on Saturday, June 25. Sign up at 6pm, the show starts at 7pm. The event is part of the Stables’ Summer Nights at the Ranch series and is specifically to raise funds for their 501(c)(3) Therapeutic Horsemanship of Ridgecrest (THOR). There are a wide array of equine activities from judged competitions to just fun games played on horseback. There are entry fees for riders to participate, but it is free for the public to attend and watch the fun.
THOR is a passion project for Candee Coffee, Owner and Senior Training Instructor of C and C who obtained non-profit status for the organization in 2006. “I’ve always had a passion for individuals with special needs,” says Coffee. “Most of them are so loving and forgiving and cheerful. You can be having a bad day and you can talk to one of them and it really lifts your spirits.”
Some of these individuals need therapy, but a lot of them will shut down in an office situation. It’s in a room, hospital-like. So they’re not getting what they need and there’s really something special about a horse and an individual. There was not anywhere here that offered that and I’m really good with the horses, but at that point I didn’t have the skills to deal with individuals with special needs in certain types of scenarios. So I went to work for Jay Nolan.”
Jay Nolan Community Services (JNCS) is a non-profit organization that has been providing support for individuals that have autism and other developmental disabilities since 1975 and has been in Ridgecrest since the late 1970’s. JNCS thoroughly trains Community Facilitators to help individuals in a one-to-one relationship.
“I worked for Jay Nolan for 13 years,” says Coffee. “I went through all the training and really got to have some hands-on work with individuals with special needs. So I understood them just on that level and that I wanted to bring them out here and let them enjoy the animals. I have a lady who is a Physical Therapist who works with me. It’s just great to see these people open up. It’s a new world for them, even people that are in a wheelchair, who never thought they’d ever be able to get on a horse and ride. Or who people who have a walker or have cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, they get on that animal and it’s like they’re sitting on the top of the world. It just makes my heart happy to be able to open those doors for somebody.”
Their program is getting results. They chart individuals’ progress and see improvement in speech development, core strength, motor skills. All improvements made while having fun. “We play games and do things. The joy it brings them is fabulous. It’s just been a real fun journey.” A fun journey for the special needs folks and those who lead them.
“We just recently attended a an event up in Bishop at the lady’s facility who was my mentor. We had three students that attended. The things that they did were amazing.” she says with tearful eyes. “They were loping circles (a technicque where the horse goes in a perfect circle at a designated speed). My friend and I looked at each other and we said ,’Wow!’ Two of the riders took jumps; they just blew us away. We asked one boy, ‘Are you ready for this?’ He replied, ‘I was born ready for this.’ It was so fabulous to see the joy that it brought them in and then it brought it to me.
“I want to continue, I want it to grow. I want to do more.”
If you want to help them their website, http://candctrainingthor.com/thor, explains the levels of sponsorships and scholarships. However, they will gladly accept any donation. Donations can be mailed to them or look for @candcstables on your Venmo App. You can also keep an eye out for their fundraising events via Facebook.