Local therapeutic riding company slowly reopens during pandemic after severe flood damage

Company is searching for more volunteers

A nonprofit therapeutic riding company has faced several challenges through 2020, but as they invite riders back during the pandemic, they are still in need of some help from community members.

Blue Mountain Therapeutic Riding was started by Mary Murphy and her husband after copious amounts of research and a recommendation from a friend. Mary was an accountant but invited people to their house for riding lessons. After retiring Mary made the leap to start her business. She researched what they needed to do to make their dream a reality and a short time later, they started Blue Mountain Therapeutic Riding to help people.

“We make it possible for people with physical, mental disabilities to ride,” Mary said, “I teach them riding skills, but we have specialized tech and specialized mounting equipment to make it possible for people to ride who may not be able to ride otherwise.”

The nonprofit serves a wide range of people, including individuals with autism and physical disabilities. Riding horses can serve many purposes for each person. Mary explains that children on the autism spectrum can learn from horse riding and she is there to help teach them.

“Let’s say a five year old boy who’s on the autism spectrum comes out here to ride and there is a lot of things he needs to deal with,” she said, “He has to figure out how to be comfortable wearing his helmet, following instructions, getting on the horse safely and being able to touch the horse. Or somebody who may not have a lot of experience because of their disability gets to come here and learn how to communicate with a thought thousand pound animal, right? So they are asking them to stop and go and turn and go through obstacle courses and do all of these fun things that they just would not have the opportunity to do otherwise.”

Mary said some people ride horses to help a hurt hip, find comfort with consistent pains or just because they enjoy it. The nonprofit is entirely ran by volunteers, including Mary and her husband. Volunteers plan numerous donation drives and events to help fund the riding company. Recently, volunteers organized a yard sale to help raise money for new paint as the riding company had many repairs from a flood in February.

In the record setting flood, Blue Mountain Therapeutic Riding lost around 10 tons of hay, numerous pieces or equipment and were forced to switch locations because of the conditions. All of their horses were evacuated before water levels got too high. One of their equipment sheds washed away in the flood but they were able to retrieve it. Some other possessions weren’t as lucky though.

“By the time we could get vehicles in to get the hay out because the mud was so deep, the mold had taken it all. So that was really sad,” Mary said, “Then the little shed that we had our helmets stored in, the doors came open in the flood and our little totes of helmets floated down the river. Some of them we got back, but they’re not usable after they’ve been in a flood.

Community members donated bails of hay after the flood and since, many volunteers have helped rebuild their infrastructures. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic though, the nonprofit hasn’t had as many volunteers. Mary said her and her husband had to do a lot of the rebuilding themselves.

Now the company is slowly reopening to their riders. Mary said some riding sessions have been cancelled out of caution and they’ve put multiple safety measures in place.

“We require masks and social distancing and the hand washing and, and answers to a list of questions about COVID symptoms,” she said, “We are very flexible about cancellations. If there’s any reason that you may be sick or know somebody or been in contact with somebody who’s sick, we don’t want you out here.”

With fall riding sessions starting the second week of September, Mary said they need volunteers now more than ever.

“Literally we can’t live without our volunteers,” she said “We are, at least at this point in our journey, we are 100% volunteer organization.”

She said there are multiple jobs to be done and no experience is required.

“We have all these brand new shelters that need paint and so if you love to paint, we can have you come out and help paint. Everything from being a side-walker or a horse-leader in the arena and working directly with our participants or being a barn buddy where you come out and help with the horse care.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can call 509-540-7535.