Word continues to spread on the benefits of the equine-assisted learning (EAL) programs and activities offered cost-free for seniors and youth at the Robinson Outreach at RiverCross Ranch, better known as ROARR.

Founded in 2017, it brought to life a dream of pioneer Irene Robinson to invite seniors to her family ranch so they too could enjoy the soothing comfort of spending time with horses. In her later years, she moved to a seniors homes. She dearly missed the horses, so the family arranged for her to visit on weekends.

KatrinaKatrina Robinson spoke of ROARR's history and mission.

"When she moved from the ranch, she couldn't ride them much anymore, but missed looking out the window and seeing them, just the energy and the atmosphere," says Katrina Robinson, founder and board co-chair.  "Seniors benefit from coming to visit the horses and getting out of their environment."

Today, ROARR has over 25 partners who participate in EAL programs and activities on Irene's family ranch

"We're still a young organization, but we've grown so rapidly every single year, and awareness is growing about what we do. We've got a waiting list now for senior homes."

Twenty-year Cochrane residents Jim and Sheila Arnett had little contact with horses before being invited to participate in ROARR's new Friday program, Seniors to Heart, with a group of residents from Hawthorne.

"This is our third week of coming out and visiting with the horses, getting to know them, grooming them, and it's been an awesome experience. Who would have thought at my age I would be doing this," says Sheila, whom, like her husband is 80. "But it's been wonderful, and the emotional contacts are just something I never would have believed. A lot of things come forward when you're visiting with these horses and spending time with them. They have something special."

In particular, they spend time with Chochie, a 30-year-old thoroughbred who has lived at RiverCross Ranch for most of his life.

SheilaSheila Arnett and her husband Jim have been visiting the ranch since the beginning of April on a weekly basis.

"I'm learning how to groom him, and which way to brush and he's been awesome. He even looks right at me, so I feel we have a good contact."

Jim says it has been an extraordinary experience.

"In addition to working with horses, we found also a chance to get much closer to people's life interests in ways we never would have done before without this opportunity. It's been great all the way around."

The popularity of the youth programs has equally benefited from positive word-of-mouth. In 2023, 458 youth took part in their programs.

At-risk youth face social, emotional, and behavioral challenges that hinder their ability to thrive in traditional educational and social settings. Equine-assisted learning allows them to develop essential life skills in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment.

Working alongside the horses, they learn about communications, trust, empathy and leadership, skills that will aid them in their personal growth.

"Another school called and asked if they are eligible, and of course they are, but we're running out of spots," says Katrina. "Now we're training new facilitators, so it's just growing and growing, which is a problem, but not a problem. We're excited about it."

hugs and kissesHugs and Kisses with Ryley Juneau, left, and Vangi Bonenfant.

Eleven-year-old miniature therapy horses Hugs and Kisses were kept busy during the special event that was both an opportunity to thank generous supporters and provide media a taste of what they offer. 

After greeting people at the ranch's entrance along with their handlers Ryley Juneau and Vangi Bonenfant, they made an appearance in the ranch's specially designed room, a treat thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd, then later on spent some one-on-one time outside with seniors.

Two other miniature therapy horses are in training--12-year-olds Bow and Arrow.

As part of the presentation, a video featuring a heart-warming poem by Alex Robinson stirred the emotions of many in the room. It featured footage from both the seniors and youth program of ROARR.

ROARR has a budget of over $530,000 and they continue to offer all of their programs and activities cost-free, including a significant portion for transportation to the Springbank area ranch. If transportation funding isn't available for the visiting seniors, they ensure participants can attend without worry or stress about the cost.

"After COVID hit, even those homes that had buses were starting to charge the seniors to come out or to go shopping or go anywhere," explains Robinson. "We pride ourselves on being cost-free to our participants. We don't want anybody paying a dime."

"We went to the homes and now we help pay for their transportation, so the seniors don't have to pay."

That makes donations crucial for this registered charity. A new fundraising program is soon to be launched.

"We're trying to reach more people to let them know we really do need some help."

During the event, some of that help came forward.

Ryan Baum, of the Rocky Mountain Rotary Club presented a $33,000 donation, raised through its Community Builders Award fundraising evenings. 

Roarr donationThe Rocky Mt. Rotary Club made a $33,000 donation to ROARR last week.

"We get to give, but it's not all our money," he told the crowd, giving thanks to some of the donors who made it possible.

roarr donation 2The Rotary Partners of Calgary at Stampede Park made their fourth donation to ROARR.

The Rotary Partners of Calgary at Stampede Park made their fourth annual contribution to ROARR, this time $5,000.

To learn more about ROARR or to make a donate, visit here