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A cooperative’s calling

Horse therapy nonprofit Riders Unlimited relies almost entirely on donors, including Sunrise Cooperative in Ohio.

Sep 21, 2020

When George Secor became CEO of Sunrise Cooperative in Ohio more than 20 years ago, he began searching for a cause he could support personally and through the cooperative. After seeing a flyer for Riders Unlimited, a nonprofit horse therapy program in northwestern Ohio, the former rider knew he’d found a fit.

Riders Unlimited offers physical and emotional therapy to mentally and physically disabled people, as well as veterans. “Because the physical movement of horses mimics the movement of a human, clients ride to increase muscle tone and range of motion,” says program director Maureen Mullins, who got connected to the program in 2003 and has three children who use Riders Unlimited services. There are other benefits, too, she says, like being able to look down at people from horseback instead of up at people from a wheelchair

Recently, Riders Unlimited has expanded into mental health services through hippotherapy, which uses an equine facilitator to translate emotions felt between a horse and client. “Horses can sense the emotions of those around them,” explains Mullins. “The equine facilitator might tell a social worker what emotions the horse is sensing from the rider. Horses are honest animals and they give you feedback.”

Today, Riders Unlimited helps about 30 riders, but it’s looking to grow. And Secor is there to help. “George is our biggest and best supporter,” says Mullins. “He loves our program and loves what we do. He checks up on us and helps us find sponsors.” She says about 90 percent of the organization’s funds come from fundraising and sponsors, with Sunrise Cooperative being the largest supporter. “Sunrise has been a huge blessing to us for many years.”

This article appeared as part of the cover story in C magazine. Read the full article for more stories about how others are giving back to their local communities.