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BraveHearts – Illinois!

June 19, 2013

Illinois – Thursday, June 13

I still had several hours of driving through Wisconsin before I crossed the border into Illinois, but I got busy right away! We stopped in the first town we came to, which was South Beloit – both Tula and I needed to get out and stretch! I found a big park with a lake, and Tula and I got our first couple miles of Illinois walking done, and then I did another mile in an adjoining neighborhood.

From there I drove on to Harvard, and we walked another 1.6 miles through town and a neighborhood. There were a lot of Mexican shops, including one with “formal” wear for little tykes – probably for a special religious occasion. This town is also the Home of Milk Day, and they have a Milky Way park, Milk Days Festival and a giant Dean’s Dairy.

Then I drove a short ways out of town to the BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding Center, which was my destination for my donation-of-the-day. I had called them earlier to see about making a donation, and they told me riding sessions would be going on until 7pm and that I was welcome to just show up and watch whatever was going on. When I got to the farm, I couldn’t find anyone at first, and then I noticed some horses and people out in an outdoor arena. Two students were just finishing a class, and I went over and watched them come back to the barn. BraveHearts works with people who have disabilities, whether it’s children with physical disabilities, or returning veterans with mental disabilities. Last year they had around 1200 sessions with veterans alone, in addition to all their other students. Today’s riders were teenagers, and their parents gave me permission to take a picture. They have a really cool harness that helps move students from wheelchair to saddle and back again. Each of the riders had their horse and 3 people around – always one person at each side, and another by the horse’s head. And of course the horses are carefully screened for suitability – and some horses work better with different kinds of people than others. The PATH-certified instructor I spoke with was named Misty – just like my old horse back home! She was very nice, and she gave me a tour of the barn, and it was easy to see how much she loves her work. She estimated they had about 100 students, and 20 horses between their 2 facilities. This farm focuses on actual riding therapy, and the other location uses horses as an aid in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. The founder of the farm (who I did not meet) survived a very serious illness, and figured she recovered because this was her mission. She has a couple Lippizan mares, and I saw one of the new foals. It was a very well-maintained place and I was happy to find them!

After my BraveHearts visit, Tula and I found the Milky Way park and walked about a mile around that. There were several soccer games going on.

And then I enjoyed a pretty evening drive back toward Rockford, where I was going to stay for the night. But along the way I drove through the town of Marengo, and it was a nice town for a beautiful evening walk, so I got another 2 1/2 miles in. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy evening walks since it stays light so late!

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