Goodbyes Linger


With great sadness, Staff has to announce that a beloved member of the RFJ herd is no longer with us.

Brewster passed away on October 5, 2019 after a sudden bout of severe colic. He was in the loving arms of Ride for Joy staff and a compassionate and well respected vet in his final moments.

Brewster first joined Ride for Joy in 2011 at just five years old thanks to then volunteer and board member Cathy Strange. Cathy had leased Brewster’s dam, Elle, to the program for years and thought he had similar qualities of greatness.

His preference for enjoying life in the slow lane made Brewster a great fit despite his incredibly young age. He served faithfully for many years before going home to create joy for Cathy’s granddaughter.

In 2018, Cathy, now the Board Chair, returned Brewster to RFJ, and he quickly made new fans amongst his riders.

Students fondly remember Brewster’s penchant for knocking over cones in lessons and expressing his opinion about the speed chosen by his leaders. He greeted everyone who passed by his stall with pricked ears and a face sniff. Brewster’s light dun coat, goofy personality, and ability to know when lessons were five minutes from ending made him unforgettable to all who knew him.

A memory garden will be created at the new RFJ office. Everyone is welcome to leave a message or picture on a stone in Brewster’s honor.


Summer Sizzles By the Barn

Silliness prevailed at All Abilities Camp 2019!

Silliness prevailed at All Abilities Camp 2019!

Happy group at Ruck Up & Rebuild Retreat, 2019.

Happy group at Ruck Up & Rebuild Retreat, 2019.

The theme for RFJ 2019 is Flexibility in Change!

With the move to the new facility and multiple events piled onto regular business, staff and volunteers have diligently worked to maintain the peace and calm at the barn while expertly handling each new task that flew in their direction.

Ruck Up & Rebuild Retreat for veterans in May was a success for the third year running. Vets enjoyed archery, processing groups and fly fishing with some beautiful catches released to grow for another year. Well known local mustang trainers brought some of their trainees and demonstrated methods they’ve perfected in working with wild horses. Dutch oven cooking filled many happy bellies. And the highlight, of course, was riding. Rain the last day did nothing to dampen the spirits of all attendees.

Two local Special Education classes spent afternoons at the barn during field trips filled with squeals of glee and petting and riding RFJ’s four legged friends. Many students were returnees from previous trips and talked lovingly about their previous steeds.

July held the annual All Abilities Camp for local youth. As always, kiddos praised the fun had learning about equines in Stable Management, creating beauty during Arts and Crafts, and riding their very own favorite horses.

RFJ fielded a record number of lesson requests for the Summer Session, along with a four fold increase in new student applications since April.

To accommodate the significant increase in students, RFJ was excited to hire two new staff this summer. Bailey Garner, a long time volunteer and Instructor-in-Training, joined as the Volunteer Coordinator. Natalie Sheffer, CTRI, came on to instruct many students, new and past. Both women are already adding their expertise to many other areas of the organization, as well.

Staff, volunteers and students marveled at all of these events occurring in the state-of-the-art indoor arena that kept the temperature rideable even when the thermostat outside read 95 and higher.

In the midst of all of these exciting experiences, RFJ’s new office building continues to click along with internal and external structures being permitted and readied for finishing touches.

RFJ staff can’t say enough thank you’s to the the Idaho Youth Ranch and the many volunteers and donors who continue to support RFJ in this time of massive growth and change.

Fly fishing success at R&R!

Fly fishing success at R&R!

Fun with brushes.

Fun with brushes.

First Instate Bank Presents $10,000 Check to Ride for Joy

First Interstate Bank Presents $10,000 Check to Ride for Joy 

“Horses bring happiness!”  The First Interstate Bank Foundation brought a little “joy” to Ride For Joy by donating $10,000 to support the Therapeutic Riding Program.  The therapeutic riding program provides professional and compassionate equine assisted activities and therapies to individuals with special needs, military veterans and active duty personnel.  The funds will be used for tuition and scholarship support. 

Christi King, Executive Director, and Lauren Zimmerman, Fundraising Coordinator, provided a tour of the grounds where the new indoor arena sits.  We met “Junior,” one of the specially trained horses and toured the indoor arena and barn as well as the outdoor arena. The new indoor arena provides shelter during hottest and coldest days of the year. 

Equine assisted services help with balance, core strength, flexibility, confidence and social skills for those with special needs.  The benefits for veterans include decreased anxiety, increased confidence, improved anger management skills, decreased stress levels, and re-integration into the community.

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All That Stays the Same is Change

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The cold winds of Spring have the staff at RFJ increasingly thankful for the incredible new indoor arena that is almost ready for use. The herd is moved and enjoying the large turn out areas, stuff is stored and awaiting the office build completion, and Staff is busily working on all of the upcoming events.

Looking ahead with excitement can accidentally overshadow the amazing experiences just past, so here is a recap of Spring Session.

A record 26 riders participated in the last session at Cloud Nine River Ranch. Six of those were veterans in the Introduction to Horsemanship Class (another record!). The group, from the Vet Center, Boise, was excited and engaged in the process. Each rider showed incredible improvement in riding skills. But the increases in confidence were the most impressive. Volunteers and staff were treated to a special presentation of music, gifts and cards at the end of the session with just a few tears shed by staff later in the day.

Staff excitedly shared many stories of remarkable rider gains like a man on the Autism Spectrum who previously needed a completely quiet, single lesson now welcoming a third rider to his group. Or a young rider with a severe trauma history resulting in insomnia, falling asleep on the way home from lessons to the great relief of her mother. And a veteran who was terrified to ride for the first time squealing and dancing with joy, saying “I did it!”

Another young man on the Spectrum who has ridden non verbally for several years began saying “walk on” and “whoa.” And a young girl with Dyslexia learned her right rein from her left.

All of these seemingly tiny moments are the momentous occasions that keep staff and volunteers propelling through the challenges in change.

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RFJ Keeps Trekking


The Ride for Joy journey continues! With over three years of planning, constructing, building and collaborating with the Idaho Youth Ranch (IYR), we can officially say that we will be moving to our forever home in April, 2019.

Our roots are being planted at the Hands of Promise Campus in Caldwell where we will share an indoor arena, outdoor arena and barn with IYR. RFJ is honored to be a part of Hands of Promise and the amazing programming that is becoming available for youth and those in need in our community.

We are now working hard on our new, private office building thanks to the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation. This generous donation has enabled RFJ to create our own office spaces, conference room, and storage area. The building will provide the highest level of confidentiality and independence for the program.

Both RFJ and IYR remain separate, independent non-profit organizations providing therapeutic equine activities in the great state of Idaho. RFJ offers equine assisted activities to the special needs and veterans communities through PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Riding), while IYR uses EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) methods to serve Idaho’s most vulnerable youth such as children who have experienced trauma, pain, or abuse. Together, as two independent non-profit organizations, we will increase the number of lives changed in the state of Idaho.

Ride for Joy and Idaho Youth Ranch do not financially share or benefit from one another. However, through this collaboration, we enhance our professional reach and network to provide positive alternative therapies in the community.

The last several years brought many great memories at Cloud Nine River Ranch in Emmett, Idaho where RFJ currently holds activities, and we will be forever grateful for their support.

We are also thankful to you for being a part of our journey. You have made this exciting time possible. We are honored to have you as a part of the Ride for Joy Family.

From Our Hooves to Yours,

Ride for Joy (Two and Four Legged Staff and Volunteers)

Special Thanks to Dr. Brooke Kelly

The horses at RFJ have been enjoying the benefits of equine chiropractic care thanks to Dr. Brooke Kelly of LEADING ANIMAL CHIROPRACTIC. Dr. Kelly has donated much of her time spent at the barn to help ensure the herd is in excellent physical condition so they can support riders of all types and needs.

Dr. Kelly’s work begins with identifying “where there is a joint that is not moving properly in the person or animal (which puts pressure on a nerve, which causes pain)…called a subluxation.” She then applies “a quick thrust into the joint space; opening in the joint, thus taking pressure off the unhealthy nerve…called an adjustment.”

The benefits of chiropractic adjustments are numerous. An adjustment “puts motion back into a joint or joints that are not moving properly and are causing pain.” It “will help insure that muscles, tendons, ligaments, and organs connected to the affected unhealthy nerve are working at an improved level” and can help prevent further damage to the spinal cord and connected areas.

Additionally, “chiropractic treatments can lower stress/anxiety and increase flexibility/mobility of the body” and “can strengthen muscle function and help improve overall well-being.”

If you have a horse or animal who may benefit from chiropractic care, visit her website at


Autumn Falls Away

Fall Session 2018 was packed with sunshine and smiles as well as fun and excitement. A year high number of 25 riders participated at RFJ. Five of those riders were new to the Therapeutic Riding Program and two more were new in the Veterans Program. Previous riders blended well with new comers, showing them the ways of RFJ and horses.

Five riders completed evaluations, moving them off the wait list and into the active rider pool.

The Vet Center, Boise brought a group of 10 veterans to the barn. Participants spent time brushing and learning about horse communication, as well as riding. One rider stated that picking the horse’s hoof was a major accomplishment for him as a previous bad experience with horses left him terrified to be in their presence. That veteran went on to ride independently in the same day!

Another rider with a severe brain injury requested to dismount early, a behavior common for him due to his injury. With encouragement from his group members and instructor, he remounted at the end of the lesson and finished his ride, something his family member was excited to see.

Yet another veteran described how horses had provided significant healing in his life. At one point following his service, he had contemplated suicide. But he was able to seek assistance and today is doing well. He spent every available second during the veterans event at RFJ petting and talking to the horses, thrilled to be back in the quiet, comforting presence of equines.

In lieu of the traditional Harvest Party, RFJ opted to have harvest festivities during the last two days of lessons. The barn, horses and staff were decorated and dressed in a Wizard of Oz theme, complete with a Yellow Brick Road obstacle course. Many students wore costumes and enjoyed various treats.

The barn hosted a free presentation on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) presented by Ivan Hardcastle, OTR. Mr. Hardcastle has a Masters of Occupational Therapy from Idaho State University and has worked at the University of Utah Hospital inpatient rehabilitation center and the Boise Elks Pediatric outpatient clinic.  He currently provides services at Primary Therapy Source in Twin Falls and Burley and has extensive education and training in the treatment of ASD.  

Ivan presented on ASD at the 2018 Idaho PATH conference to high praise and agreed to bring his extensive knowledge to RFJ. The presentation came out of requests from staff and volunteers to better understand how to work with the many RFJ riders who are "on the spectrum." 

RFJ’s most experienced veterans achieved a major riding goal set early in the spring by one long time rider. This veteran, who had grown up riding before a diagnosis of MS took away most of her independence and riding opportunities, had requested to try loping.

The group spent the spring and summer working on exercises and skills to prepare for the high level task. All three riders were able to successfully lope on the lunge line during two lessons, exclaiming how exciting and different the movement was from their usual trot. Next step? Loping independently!

On the final day of riding, 2018, two riders participate in the new One Time Ride program, allowing them to “interview” RFJ for possible future experiences. The riders’ parents were so excited about the process and professionalism of the program, they requested the children be placed on the active riders list, on the spot!

With so many exciting activities and experiences in 2018, the staff at RFJ can’t wait for the snow to fly by so Spring Session can bring more fun asap!


Support the Idaho National Guard and Reserve this Holiday

The troops serving in the Idaho National Guard and Reserves at Gowen Field would welcome some love and support this holiday season.

The sponsorship is completely anonymous. The program is limited to current National Guard and Reserve Component (Navy, Marine Corps and Army) members and families.  Enlisted (E1 through E4) are priority.

If you would like to “adopt” a family this year, fill out the Holiday Sponsor Assistance Form. You may also nominate a family for “adoption.”

Deadlines are coming fast so act quickly to share some cheer in our community.


Summer Sizzles By

As the leaves begin to change and the weather starts to cool, the Ride for Joy barn reflects on the marvelous summer that has simmered to an end. 

The instructors provided life-changing lessons to 23 participants, including three new riders and one who returned after several years away.  Parents of riders served by RFJ's four legged heroes reported seeing increased independence at home, improved ability to follow instructions, increased physical strength and reduced anxiety. 

In an effort to lessen the time new rider applicants are on the wait list and reduce its overall size, evaluations have been provided prior to each session in 2018.  Spring evals moved five individuals to the Active Rider List and Summer provided three evaluations.  New applicants kept rolling in, though, and 12 applications were received during the session.

The annual All Abilities Camp brought 12 participants ranging in age from four to 19 to the barn for the traditional therapeutic riding, stable management for equine education, art, and of course...water games! The days ended with relaxing reading under the beautiful trees and also fun camp songs sung by amazing volunteers. Laughter and smiles made the heat of each day fade from focus. 

As the fall session slips by and the end of 2018 nears, the staff at RFJ are truly grateful to be part of such a wonderful program. It is tough to call the time spent at the barn a "job" and the stories and testimonies often heard from participants and parents is proof.

RFJ wants to thank you for believing in the mission to provide equine assisted activities to individuals with special needs and veterans. Your support makes the best "job" in the world possible and changes countless lives through the horse and human relationship.

May your fall be filled with crisp air, pumpkin spice, the excitement of the holiday season nearing and lots of joy.

From Our Hooves to Yours, 

The Ride for Joy Family