Ivory gets a ride, escorted by horse handler Morrigan. DON RICKERS

Wild West Day helps fund riding programs

Brenda and Rob Langendoen’s nonprofit, charitable organization, Horse Cents for Kids, funds programs for budding equestrians in the community, with a focus on at-risk youth. They had a busy day last Saturday, as they hosted a Wild West Day for family fun at their farm, B’n’R Stables, located at 2250 Balfour Street (at 16 Road) in North Pelham.

Horse rides, horse grooming, a petting area with small farm animals, a food truck, live music, and raffles were all offered.

“There was nothing here when we bought the 30-acre property in 1999, just agricultural land. We built the barn and lived next door in a trailer for the first year. It was always my dream to be able to do this with the farm,” said Brenda, who grew up loving horses, begging her parents for lessons. She started riding at age 21, and quickly became passionate about equestrian pursuits.

Brenda is the executive director of Horse Cents for Kids, which she and her husband started in 2003. They launched a pilot after-school program in 2019, and partnered with Brock University to conduct a nine-week study, examining the impact of their equestrian programs on the mental health and well-being of children. The results of the study were a powerful testament to the positive social and emotional experiences offered by the programs, which allow children to engage with horses through feeding, saddling, and riding.

Kids’ responses indicated that they had learned patience, compassion, attention, and responsibility.

Horse Cents for Kids continued to run programs with restrictions during the pandemic, and is appreciative of grants from the United Way of Niagara, the Branscombe Family Foundation, and the Trillium Foundation. They depend heavily on donations and sponsorships from companies and individuals to offer their programs for youth-at-risk in Niagara.

“We have our fee-for-service, learn-to-ride program for families that can afford to cover the cost, but can subsidize the payments for lower-income families that can’t,” said Brenda. “Overall, we handle about 80 to 85 kids a week. They just love coming out and being in this atmosphere.”

Western horse riding lessons are available for beginners through advanced levels.

Barriers for at risk children, such as transportation and meals, are also included in the after-school horsemanship program. It has a strong mentorship component, a valuable support for children facing barriers.

B’n’R Stables has a 60 x 80 foot indoor arena which allows riding programs in the rain and during winter months.

“Most of our kids have never developed skills in the ring or in the indoor arena. We provide that training, and also take them out for rides around the field, and on some local trails.”

Wild West Day was open to the public, with Brenda’s regular students helping out by leading horses and young riders through the different stations.

“Some of our regulars have their own horses and board them here,” she said. The farm has 12 horses, mainly standardbreds, which students can ride.

Horse Cents for Kids has about 40 volunteers, including parents and board members that help out with the after-school program each night.

“We have generally four to five volunteers each night that rotate through,” said Brenda. “We are heavily reliant on our volunteers.”

Full details of all the programs provided through Horse Cents for Kids are available at www.hcfk.ca