Horses4Heroes transitioned from a temporary home at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs to a permanent home, courtesy of the Las Vegas City Council’s unanimous vote April 16.
The nonprofit now pays the city $1 a year for the equestrian concession and $500-per-month rent for a nearby residential house.
Horses4Heroes was founded by Sydney Knott in 2006, operating out of her backyard. In March, the horses were transferred to the popular city park, known for its green grass and peaceful ponds that attract picnickers by the carload — $6 per carload.
She began Horses4Heroes to provide free horse rides to the families of the military, veterans and first responders. But now, with the city’s blessing, the Horses4Heroes Community Equestrian Center, “The Ranch at Tule Springs,” will be open to the public and offer low-cost rides for all ages and all skill levels.
The ranch will offer lessons, camps, recreational riding, corporate events, Mommy and Me for toddlers and preschoolers, an after-school junior rancher program and other programs.
The operation consists of horses, a barnyard with 12 pygmy goats, one sheep, a miniature cow and an alpaca, all available for petting and brushing but not feeding. There are 13 horses, including two miniature horses for petting but not riding.
To avoid disappointment, it’s wise to call first and make an appointment.
Call 702-885-1943 or go to theranchlasvegas.com.
The ranch is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and on Sunday by appointment.
On Good Friday, a Henderson family was having a birthday party with a handful of youngsters taking turns atop a horse circling the corral three times. The cost per child was $5 for the basic ride. The little ones were wearing helmets since it was a long way to the ground, and the horse was being led by a ranch hand. Children 18 months or older are allowed to ride with varying degrees of assistance.
“The underlying benefit is that you teach people to be independent,” Knott said.
In their first month of operation in March offering free rides, 3,000 wristbands were handed out, she said.
Tammy Halladay, who served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, home-schools her six children and every Tuesday brings all six of them, ages 3 to 12, for lessons.
She pays $25 a week for the opportunity. The four older girls take lessons, while the 3- and 5-year-olds take turns riding a horse in a program called “horseplay.”
She said the children learn respect and responsibility by being around the horses and the barnyard animals, one reason she has been doing this for the past five years.
She learned about Horses4Heroes from a newspaper article she read when her horse-crazy oldest daughter, then 7, was having a birthday. The family has suffered highs, such as doing well at horse shows, and lows, such as when their regular horse died.
The downside of the new site is the lack of grass and shady trees where the Horse Equestrian Center sits, although the park adjacent to the ranch provides safe harbor from the heat and is picnic-worthy.
Councilman Steve Ross worked with Knott to arrange the use of the city property at the park. Ross also persuaded the Associated General Contractors to donate labor and materials to build the new open-air stable, also known as the Mare Motel. Cox Charities Community Corral is named after that benefactor.
Knott, owner of the PR Group, does not take any pay for her efforts, according to the forms the nonprofit files with the IRS. She started with public donations, mainly from her family, reporting $18,500 in 2007 and $80,000 in 2012. Membership dues make up about $50,000 of the $138,439 in revenue.
Knott wanted a horse as a child, but it was not affordable for her family. She got her first horse in 1999 when she was 42. Then in 2006, the divorced, single cancer survivor with three daughters founded Horses4Heroes. Today, there are 273 independent affiliates in the United States and Canada.
“To my knowledge, we are the only national nonprofit equestrian organization that owns its own horses and operates its own equestrian center,” she said.
Knott told the council that 2014 is the year of the horse on the Chinese zodiac, making Horses4Heroes particularly appropriate.
“Some of the kids who come don’t have friends and family, so our program is very, very important to them. Some are victims of domestic abuse. This organization means more to kids than you know,” Knott said.
“We’re changing lives one horseback ride at a time.”
Contact Jane Ann Morrison at email@example.com or 702-383-0275.