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Winter 2022-2023 Update

In this issue:

  • Program Update about 2023 Participant Registration Changes and Volunteer Training
  • Remembering Griffin the Therapy Horse
  • Event Updates and Save the Dates: Walk-Wheel & Ride-A-Thon on June 17th and Round-Up Gala on November 18th!

Message from Cheryl Holt, Executive Director

Hello All,

River Valley Riders has had another fantastic year!  We had full programming, built our Phase 2 facility project, had two very successful fundraising events, and updated our mission statement.

First, programming started in mid-April and ran until November 3rd, our longest season to date.  Our riding program was offered Monday through Thursday, plus carriage driving was offered on Mondays and Thursdays!  We had summer and fall programming for students from the Minnesota Waldorf School.  Hippotherapy was provided in the summer.  We offered the greatest number of lesson hours in our 23-year history!

We provided services to ~100 participants utilizing ~200 volunteers, 10 PATH Intl. certified instructors and 23 volunteer horses!  I would like to take this opportunity to send all our volunteers a heartfelt THANK YOU!  We appreciate you and we are so grateful to have such a wonderful team of volunteers.  We cannot run the program without you, you are the life blood of the organization.  

We served people with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, developmental delay, genetic disorders, and many other diagnoses.  The age range for participants was 4 years old to over 65 years old!

Secondly, our facility was improved!  We have a dream that is big and daunting, but we continue to hold the reins and drive RVR to bring our dream of a complete facility with programming year-round into reality.  We are getting closer and closer to completion with ALL your help.  

Our Phase 2 build will provide us with a viewing/gathering room, indoor bathrooms, storm shelters, an office and a small classroom/conference room.  Also, included is the important mounting annex as the mounting ramp moves to this connected building.  This opens all the indoor arena for lessons and allows us to increase some of our class sizes to serve more participants!

The construction materials arrived on September 8th!  The work started!  RAM General Contracting will continue to work through this winter and finish up the landscaping work in the spring of 2023. This will provide RVR the opportunity to provide services to more participants.  Thank you to all who supported RVR through this stage of build!

Thirdly, we had two very successful fundraising events.  Both our Walk-Wheel-Ride-A-Thon and Round-Up Gala were well attended in support of our mission and program expansion!  Ride-A-Thon attendees enjoyed beautiful weather and lunch together after the walk/wheel/ride on September 10th at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve.  Our riders, drivers and volunteers also participated in a special fundraising trail ride during lessons.  The RVR Family gave generously to exceed our fundraising goal, raising $41,790!  The Round-Up Gala is detailed in its own section below.

Lastly, the Board of Directors updated our mission statement, but did not change our purpose and passion that remain strong.  Our new mission statement is to create a supportive community where people with special needs connect with horses and experience life-changing benefits.

Demonstrating our mission is working, here are some comments directly from our 2022 participants’ families:

  • Given my daughter’s anxiety, we had no idea what to expect when signing up for RVR.  The patience of the volunteers and instructor has been amazing.  As a result, her confidence level in so many areas of life has grown.  Thank you!  She is so proud of all her accomplishments!
  • Carriage driving has become a favorite for my son, he is excited to go weekly, and I see a spark in him on horse therapy days.  He feels he has confidence directing the horse and has helped him build advocacy for himself. 
  • We saw increases in independence over the course of the program this year.  New vocabulary words every day!  Gains in social skills and manners.  Improvement in balance and walking.
  • The instructors, volunteers, the other participants, and their families have all become part of our family.  It is a priceless gift.  There is a bond that is formed between my daughter and her horse.  It is a bond beyond words, a connection made by “feeling” one another on a different level, with open hearts!  There are so many ways, big and small, that riding trickles over my daughter’s quality of life outside of the program.  

I look forward to 2023 with excitement!  Sending all of you best wishes for health, happiness and love this Holiday Season!

Warm regards,  


2023 Program Update

We are looking forward to a wonderful 2023 program season.  Lessons will be held April 17th through November 2nd, 2023, with 26 weeks of riding.  We will again divide the program into 3 sessions: Spring (8 weeks); Summer (10 weeks); Fall (8 weeks).  We will have some changes to the registration process and program, please read on to be fully informed. 

The registration process will remain as a first come, first serve basis through the US Postal Service.  We will mail the registration forms out on January 30th, 2023.  There are four important changes:

  1. We are instituting a $25.00 nonrefundable registration/administrative fee per participant.  This payment MUST accompany the registration form, or the registration/participant will NOT be considered for the program.
  2. We know the delivery of the mail varies, so we will post the registration form on our website on February 1st, 2023.  So, if you have not received the form in the mail, you can print it from the website, complete it and mail it to River Valley Riders, 8362 Tamarack Village, Suite 119-440, Woodbury, MN  55125.  Note - This is a mail box in the UPS store, so not an office with RVR staff.  Registrations are NOT accepted electronically.  Registration forms received by RVR will be sorted based on the US Postal Service date/time stamp on the return envelope.  
  3. There will be an increase in lesson fees.  Group lesson fee will be $55.00 per 45-minute lesson; Private lesson fee will be $80.00 per 60-minute lesson and Carriage Driving lesson fee will be $60.00 per 45-minute lesson.
  4. RVR will not be providing individually-assigned helmets for each rider or driver.  We will have a pool of helmets that will be shared by participants.  As an alternative, information about purchasing a personal helmet will be offered following registration for riders/drivers accepted into the program.  All helmets are required to be ASTM-SEI approved and no more than 5 years old.  NO BIKE HELMETS.

Even with these changes, RVR continues to be the best value as compared to other local programs.  The lesson fees only cover ~40% of the cost to provide this programming.  Thank you for your understanding.


Remembering Griffin

Owner Kelly Murphy wrote a wonderful tribute to her amazing horse Griffin who passed away on November 14, 2022.  Griffin volunteered with RVR since 2019 and was a kind, gentle soul who the volunteers and riders loved!  

Kelly wrote:  Saying goodbye to an ordinary-extraordinary horse…

By your looks, you were the utterly average horse - 15 hands, 1,000 pounds bay gelding with a little bit of chrome and some weird scars. We never knew what kind of horse you were and that was probably for the best - we had to accept you for your personality. 

And what a personality it was! How you would waggle your ears to put people at ease, the gentle tickle of your whiskers taking treats, the way you would adjust for the skill level of each rider, the bright eyes eagerly awaiting your green bucket, and a thousand other small ways that made you so special.

You were a village horse. Meaning that you raised a village full of horse people - many children got their first ride on your strong back and many adults too, some you even helped find their way back to horses. You met us all with kindness and infinite patience. You were also a village horse in that you were loved by this village of people who met you. You charmed everyone - from when you first crawled into my heart, to the community of people who cared for you, right up to the vet who helped you transition from this life. You were the embodiment of unconditional love. 

You made it to 30 years old, 17 of them together, was so much more than I could have asked for. In those last years, your heart and try shined through more than ever. You flew across fields with your riders and delicately balanced special needs kids. You gave it your all every time, anything we asked of you - sometimes even taking care of us when we didn’t know the danger. 

Breathing out those last few breaths, your muzzle over my heart, was the sweetest goodbye you could give me. I’ll see you again, friend.


Round-Up Gala

On Saturday, November 19, 2022, 160 friends of RVR gathered together at Jimmy's Event Center in celebration of our riders and drivers!  The evening began with a social hour with blues/R&B/soul music by Tom Burnevik's TomTyme, the silent auction and fun games, followed by dinner and a program by Cheryl Holt and MC Jimmy Detmar.  Miss Pickles and Arvid joined us (virtually).  The live auction was exciting and led to the inspiring Fund-The-Vision giving opportunity with $71,379 raised through generous gifts that completed the funding required for the Phase 2 build!

The silent and live auctions raised $18,898 - exceeding our goal - thanks to the generosity of individuals and local businesses - see the full list of event supporters! We are grateful to the Twin Cities Creative Media Group, Stagetime Productions and AV For You for the beautiful videos featuring our participants and audio/visual/auction assistance.

The 2023 Round-Up Gala will be on Saturday, November 18th.  Please save the date!


Walk-Wheel & Ride-A-Thon

This annual fundraising event is moving to June!  Those of you who have been involved with RVR for many years may remember we used to have this event in June.  Please mark your calendars for Saturday, June 17, 2023.

We hope you will join us for the event at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve for a walk, wheel or ride followed by a delicious lunch. Our participants will have their own special fundraising trail ride during their normal lesson time the following week.  If you are unable to join us, a virtual event will also be offered to span the entire month of June, giving everyone time to gather their donations in support of River Valley Riders.

More information will be shared in the Spring of 2023!  Thank you again for a wonderfully successful 2022 Walk-Wheel and Ride-A-Thon event!


2023 Volunteer Training
Saturday, April 1, 2023  8:30am - 4:00pm 

Mandatory for New Volunteers 
Returning Volunteers - Strongly recommended if you did not to attend the all-day training in 2022.

Our season-starting training day, for new and returning volunteers will be offered Saturday, April 1st at the RVR Afton site at 2007 Neal Avenue South.  Plan to spend a full-day introduction to the fun and responsibility of RVR volunteering.  Please mark your calendars!

The day will begin at 8:30am for indoor training which continues until about noon when a light lunch will be provided, with water and coffee available. After lunch we will start the hands-on training, until ~4:00pm. You’ll learn about therapeutic riding, the children and adults we serve, and the horses that help us. It will be a full and active day! Please dress appropriately: layers, closed toe shoes (preferably heavy duty shoes/boots), etc. Training will occur rain or shine.

Returning volunteers are encouraged to attend this continuing education opportunity, especially those who started in 2022 or would like to be evaluated as a horse leader.  We will be starting lessons at our Afton lesson site the week of April 17th.  

More information and RSVP sign-up will be provided by March.


Attention Horse Owners

RVR is looking for additional volunteer horses on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. We need people who are willing to share their calm and quiet horse(s) with RVR. This includes trailering them to and from the site on the evening they choose to volunteer. 

If you have a horse that you think could work for the program (or know of a horse), please email us or call 651-439-2558 and leave a message. This call could give more riders the opportunity to participate and receive the benefits of therapeutic riding!


We are grateful for everyone who supports the RVR Family with your generosity and service!  It's not too late to help our participants and horses!  Donate online or mail your gift to: River Valley Riders, 8362 Tamarack Village, Suite 119-440, Woodbury, MN 55125. 


River Valley Riders
8362 Tamarack Village, Suite 119-440  Woodbury, Minnesota  55125
www.rivervalleyriders.org | 651-439-2558 | info@rivervalleyriders.org

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River Valley Riders (EIN# 41-1949447) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with support from individuals, foundations and corporations.  Your financial donation directly benefits the children and families served by River Valley Riders.  All donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.  Financial statements will be provided upon request.

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