Motorcycle ride fundraises for equestrian therapy

Published 10:25 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Riders will rev their engines later this month to help raise money for one of the region’s few destinations for equestrian therapy.

Graz’n Acres Therapeutic Riding Center in Sedley will hold a poker run on Sept. 22 that will end approximately 30 miles away at Tidewater Motorcycles Inc. at 4324 Godwin Blvd. in Suffolk. Registration will be from 9 to 10 a.m. before riders take a scenic route through the country starting at 10 a.m.

The center has partnered with Tidewater Motorcycles since 2010 for a fundraiser that brings 50 to 150 riders each year depending on the weather, according to Cyndi Raiford, director and lead instructor at Graz’n Acres. Registration will be $20 and includes lunch and the participant’s first playing card.

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In a poker run, each participant will stop at checkpoints along the route to draw a card. They can even buy more hands for $5 each, according to Joy Eaton, a volunteer on the Graz’n Acres board of directors.

The best hand will win a prize that will be announced during the cookout at Tidewater Motorcycles following the ride, with pork barbecue and other dining choices. Awards will also be given for things like the group that traveled the farthest to participate.

Raiford said groups typically come from as far as Chester, Yorktown and Mathews County to help raise money. It’s not just motorcycles either. Previous rides have also included cars and three-wheeled roadsters.

“We have a little bit of everything out there, but it’s primarily motorcycles,” Eaton said.

The money ends up helping the children that come to Graz’n Acres, a nonprofit that provides therapy and assistance to people with disabilities.

The center was founded in 1999 and has grown to serve approximately 100 participants annually with numerous volunteers and eight horses and ponies, according to The largest program at the center is therapeutic mounted riding that’s focused on balance, coordination and both fine and gross motor skills.

The center’s rural surroundings are refreshing for the children, Eaton said, and they’re also getting a unique, impactful experience on their horses.

“The horses are very adept at reading the people that are around them. They are very sensitive to what’s going on around them, and the children just respond to the horses like they would nothing else,” Eaton said.

The center’s service area covers Franklin, Southampton County, Suffolk and Isle of Wight County. Raiford explained that the closest facilities that have their level of certified therapeutic sessions with horses are in Virginia Beach or on the other side of Williamsburg.

These sessions are done with careful input and oversight from their parents, teachers and therapists, Raiford said.

“They’re also having a lot of fun out there and don’t realize that they’re working on their motor skills,” she said.

There’s also the Equine Facilitated Learning Program for at-risk children. Based on Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association methodology, these groundwork lessons are typical for those that have been expelled or suspended from school.

The center’s At-Risk Program is a partnership with the Fresh Start Center of Southampton Public Schools. Raiford said it’s a great way to keep the students focused and willing to learn with their emotions in check.

“There’s no better equalizer for a youth with behavior issues than having to work with a 1,000-pound horse,” she said.

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