South Bend nonprofit needs volunteers to care for therapeutic horses

NOW: South Bend nonprofit needs volunteers to care for therapeutic horses

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Have some extra time on your hands? A South Bend nonprofit is in need of volunteers to help care for its therapeutic horses.

Reins of Life, a nonprofit that has run equestrian programs for children and adults with disabilities in Michiana for 42 years, is looking for volunteers to help feed its 17 horses.

“We teach them to ride horses and to use equine assisted activities to help them with their daily life skills and goals," said Holly Byers, an instructor at Reins of Life.

With a donkey named Donkey Dar and a nearly 2,000 pound horse named Bud, Byers said there’s always fun to be had while out caring for the animals.

The organization is looking for feeder volunteers who are able to come feed horses for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Volunteer shifts typically run for two hours at a time. 

“Those volunteers come in shifts of three or groups of three to come and do that. Most of our animals here are retired from their previous life and they found a new purpose with us. They are on specific diets that are recommended by our veterinarian services,” Byers said.

Volunteers must be at least 16-years-old and experience caring for horses is helpful but not required. The crew at Reins of Life will provide training for volunteers. 

Byers, who has been working for Reins of Life for nine years, said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way they operate in multiple ways.

“Our population of students in general is typically immunocompromised, in that at risk community. We definitely have gone above and beyond to make sure our ridership is protected to our fullest abilities,” Byers said.

The staff over at Reins of Life are getting creative to meet the needs of their participants and riders during these uncertain times. 

From hosting virtual horse shows to holding Zoom calls with riders and their beloved horses, the team is just trying to make the new normal work. They’re even in the process of putting Wifi in throughout the property to make it even easier for their animal lovers to connect virtually with the horses. 

Reins of Life opened in its original South Bend facility in 1978. It opened a second facility in Michigan City in 2017.

The organization serves riders from St. Joseph, Marshall, Elkhart, Fulton, Porter, Starke and LaPorte counties in Indiana and Berrien and Cass counties in Michigan.

For anyone interested in volunteering at Reins of Life, or adopting one of their retired horses, visit the organization’s website or give them a call at 574-232-0853.

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