Photo: Carter Starr rides Mocha Dot at the Banbury Cross Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Oxford, Mich. She is assisted by volunteers Carrie and Andrew Thompson, and Faith Breznau.
OXFORD, Mich.–– Lee Donley, president of UM Men in the North Central Jurisdiction, and his wife, Ruth, have provided therapeutic horseback riding experiences for special-needs persons for nearly two decades.
The couple manages Banbury Cross Therapeutic Equestrian Center, a non-profit organization that began 19 years ago as a small facility serving a handful of riders. Every week some 80 volunteers now serve over 75 riders in southeastern Michigan. Lee is the facilities manager; Ruth serves as office manager, and four certified instructors train the volunteers.
Riders include individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, developmental delay, and downs syndrome. Sessions are designed to increase muscle tone, coordination, mobility and flexibility; the rides also enhance social skills and self esteem.
The year-round center has a heated indoor arena, a luxury not many riding centers provide.
The Donleys first became involved with Banbury Cross as volunteers in 1991, the year the program began. Over the years, they became increasingly involved, and the couple now lives on the property in order to oversee daily activities.
Lee keeps the grounds and buildings and organizes volunteer work teams, including members of a local UM churches. Ruth manages the office, and handles the bulk of the administrative duties. She also writes grant applications and leads the committee planning the annual Derby Day fundraiser, along with other smaller fundraisers.
The center thrives under their leadership.
For more information on Banbury Cross and therapeutic horseback riding, please visit:www.banburycrosstec.com and www.narha.org.