PHOTO BY DENVER STEINER
Jasmine Weaver, 6, of Kidron, smiles during her first time seated on Glory after a lesson on safe mounting taught by Director Tara Steiner, center, with support from volunteers Dawn Zuniga, left, and Carolyn Barkman. For more information, visit www.StirrupCourage.org.
By JACQUI L. HERSHBERGER
A new local non-profit at 823 S. Kohler Road is getting ready to more fully serve disadvantaged kids in the community.
“Children are invited to develop meaningful connections with our horses alongside caring volunteers, as they learn about horse care, safety, grooming, leading, and riding,” said founder, Tara Steiner.
Stirrup Courage is in the process of building an equestrian center that can be used year-round, with hopes to open in the spring of 2022. This past summer, since the barn and area weren’t completed, the Steiners held group lessons outside in their yard.
“When my husband’s parents purchased this farm property that connects with their own property in the fall of 2020, the timing and location began to all click into place. When they asked the family for ideas for how to use the 40 acres, my husband and I made a spontaneous visit to pitch the idea of my nonprofit riding stable to them. Since that time, I am so thankful to have had so much support from the whole Steiner family behind me and the mission of Stirrup Courage,” Steiner said.
A stirrup is a light frame that holds the foot of the rider, used to aid in mounting (lifting oneself up into the saddle), and as a support while riding. “Like the stirrups, we exist to help uplift our participants, and offer support as they ride out the challenges in their lives,” Steiner said.
Steiner developed a curriculum that eases kids into being around horses, and ends with them being able to ride independently. One-hour small group lessons in 4-6 week sessions, $25 a lesson, are offered. The completed barn, built by Weaver Commercial Construction, will have eight stalls. “We will be adding to our equine team through donations of proven child-safe horses and ponies, who will go through a trial period to make sure they are the right fit for our mission. A secondary program goal for Stirrup Courage is that we can help give new purpose for horses and ponies who need to slow down from the levels of work and sport that they previously performed, but still have more life left in them and love to give!” Steiner said.
The plan will also have an indoor arena, which will have a raised viewing platform so that parents can watch their children through windows, play area for younger siblings, a horse book library, office space, room to gather groups of kids at tables for teaching and crafts, and handicap-accessible family bathrooms.
Steiner started taking lessons on her pony when she was 9, showed horses through 4-H through high school, and gave riding lessons. Her Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and passed away during her freshman year of college.
“The consistency our horses provided, during all that time of upheaval and unpredictability, kept me going. The comfort they gave helped me process through that grief in a way no person was able to do, with the ability to just be quietly present without words,” Steiner said.
Graduating from Malone with a degree in education, she worked as the Horse Program Director at Joy of Living Camp. After she and her husband, Denver, had two children, they felt called to fostering, and adopted their two younger children.
“We still wanted to give back in some way to support other foster families, since we had experienced the challenges first hand. Having horses at our home had so often provided a helpful motivation and positive distraction for the many different children who had come through our home in foster care. I wanted to do something to bridge that gap for children who didn’t have easy access to the benefits of horses,” Steiner said.
“I dedicate this project to my mom, and I know if she were here today she would be that volunteer working in my barn every day, feeding and cleaning stalls, helping get horses ready, and making kids laugh!” Steiner said.
Qualifying participants include children and youth ages 5-21 who may have experienced foster care and/or adoption; may be grieving a significant loss (a death, parental separation/divorce, serious illness); may be struggling with anxiety or depression; may be facing bullying or rejection at school; may be living in a poverty environment; may carry trauma from any adverse childhood experiences that place them at risk.
Families interested in having their child participate, and businesses and individuals wanting to provide a partnership for the building project can contact Director Tara Steiner at stirrupcourage @gmail.com. Volunteers and child-safe horses are also needed. Give online at https:// givebutter.com/0KgZHx, or checks can be mailed to: Stirrup Courage, 645 S. Kohler Rd., Orrville OH 44667.