There is something magical about being at the SaddleUp! Foundation and Riding Academy. Maybe it's how the sunlight hits the back of a roan, the late-summer breeze in the high meadow grass or the gleaming floor of the stables. (Yes, you read that right). Everything feels harmonic, every choice creates balance; the matching barn kittens, the pair of Bernese Mountain dogs, all working together to infuse the giant facility with a feeling of home. This feeling is the manifestation of SaddleUp! Founder & President, Shery McDonald-Galbreath.
The moment I met Shery, or "Bear" as she prefers, I felt an immediate kinship. She introduced me to each and everyone we met as we toured the impressive facilities, treating her volunteers and employees as members of a spiritual family. Permeating the experience at SaddleUp! is a sense of home, hearth, and family in the best sense of the word.
The SaddleUp! story began in her own backyard; a horse property in Cherry Hills Village. A long-time horsewoman and proud mama of a daughter, Emma, "Bear" founded SaddleUp! when her daughter's friend Katie, paralyzed by an auto accident as a baby, asked Shery if she could ride. Bear found great purpose in making that dream a reality as Emma's after school riding lessons were extended to include hippotherapy sessions for Katie. The gals worked together, Shery taking "side-walker" and Emma as the "lead-walker" under the guidance of a hippotherapist the Galbreaths hired, and a win-win-win situation was created. Katie began to improve, Emma delighted in the opportunity to do something important, and Shery McDonald-Galbreath found her mission.
Shery, her husband Jim Galbreath, and Emma moved from Cherry Hills to a forty-acre parcel in the horse country of Parker and built a world-class equine facility in order to expand the dream. SaddleUp! serves children and adults with any number of physical, developmental and/or cognitive challenges through a wide variety of therapeutic programs designed to increase functional abilities, self-esteem and independence. Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy is a collaborative modality which develops the bond between human and animal, which benefits the participant by deepening emotional connection and relationship. Hippotherapy focuses on the physical aspects, while therapeutic riding includes horsemanship and riding skills. Special needs and able-bodied riders work individually and side-by-side with therapists and volunteers through loving discipline, creating a special connection and sense of belonging.
Nothing has been overlooked as Bear created her Parker home, where the families of children with special needs are given some much needed attention as well. Among the amenities offered are use of a gorgeous two bedroom suite for a family get-away or stressed-out-parent quiet time. Art therapy, games, books, homework help, activities and a canopy bed for naptime are available for those siblings whose needs are sometimes back-burnered by the demands of the special needs world.
I am forever drawn to those who do more than they need to, give more than they have to, and Shery McDonald-Galbreath drew me like a moth to a flame with the warmth of her home fires. As I witnessed the concentration and elation on the face of a SaddleUp! rider finding the strength inside himself, I found a twinge of envy within myself. This is the spirit of Colorado that I've fallen in love with. It's a beautiful life you've created, Miss Bear, and you do it all in a smile, a pair of boots and a string of pearls. SaddleUp, little lady!
Saturday, September 25th, country music star Brad Paisley, with special guests Darius Rucker and Justin Moore, play in concert to benefit SaddleUp! Foundation. Tickets available through www.DenverMagazine.com/SaddleUp or by calling 303-788-1666.