Morgan Horses – Goodwill Ambassadors

Three Morgan horses in the Portland, OR area are performing an important job; one they would never have dreamed of during their days by their mothers’ side. These horses are teaching children from the Portland and Vancouver Metropolitan areas life skills necessary to develop into responsible, caring adults.

These Morgan horses live at Old McDonald’s Farm, Inc., a nonprofit,
children’s charity located in Corbett, OR. This organization strives to offer “at risk” children, ages K-12, an opportunity to learn life skills through hands-on interactions with animals and nature in a therapeutic farm setting.

Stephanie Rickert, Executive Director, began Old McDonald’s Farm, Inc. in 1993 and in the last 12 years since they have been open, her charity has served and taught over 15,000 children; 1,950 of which participating in 2007. As stated in the Old McDonald’s Farm, Inc. website, the primary goal of this organization is to “teach children responsibility and respect for themselves, other people, animals and the environment.” While the charity targets “at risk” youth, all children are welcome to participate. Many of the kids are from urban settings and have never been on a farm, let alone been able to
interact with farm animals such as chicken, goats, and horses.

Since Stephanie’s family raised and showed Morgan horses, the choice of this breed to aid her in this work was an obvious one. “Morgans are sound, good natured, beautiful horses that are easy-keepers. Aside from my pony and donkey, I would not have any other breed here,” Stephanie says. The three Morgan horses living at Old McDonald’s Farm, Inc. are “J.P.” (short for John Pierpont Morgan, a U.V.M. Emmisary son), “Willoughby” (Zippity-Doo-Dah, a Saddleback Supreme
daughter), and “Kirby”(Fircrest Raleigh, a U.V.M. Promise grandson).
According to Stephanie, while the kids love all the animals, the horses are always the favorite.

Riding is part of the program but that is not the main emphasis. The kids are taught every aspect of handling the horses in effort to teach them to communicate and read the body language of the horse with which they are working. Through these interactions, Stephanie sees many positive changes in the children. These changes include improvement in such areas as self esteem, confidence,attentiveness, communication skills, empathy, sense of accomplishment, and responsibility. It is definitely good mental therapy for all involved.

Because Old McDonald’s Farm, Inc. is run solely through donations there is always a need for people’s volunteer time, monetary donations, and equipment. All donations are tax-deductible as OMF is a non-profit, children’s charity. In the next couple of years Stephanie foresees the need to retire her older mare, “Willoughby”, and will be in search of a small Morgan between the ages of 8-10 that has the personality and willingness to teach kids. Also there is always a need for various pieces of tack and equipment,including a harness for driving one of her Morgan horses. If you are interested
in donating please visit the Old McDonald’s Farm website or call 503/695-3316

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