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Therapeutic horseriding center strives for regular routine after Harvey

Spring Observer - 9/17/2017

The stables at SIRE Therapeutic Horsemanship in Hockley are getting back to normal after all three sites and office flooded due to Hurricane Harvey. SIRE, a center that specializes in therapeutic equestrian activities, uses horse riding to assist clients with emotional and physical disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis and autism.

While all three sites in Hockley, Spring and Richmond were inaccessible due to floodwaters, volunteers in the Hockley were able to feed the horses and a farmhand looked after the horses in Spring until staff members were able to return, he said.

"It really was the work of volunteers and staff who just put themselves out there to work very long hours," said Joe Wappelhorst, executive director of SIRE. "Horses are flight animals and are not the most calm during events like this."

During the flooding, Spring and Hockley both took in two horses that needed shelter.

The biggest challenge SIRE is facing is getting the families and volunteers back on track after the flooding.

"We have almost 300 riders and volunteers every week at our locations," he said. "So many of them have been affected."

SIRE volunteer Richard Morgan, 67, returned the week after Harvey to help around the farm. When Harvey hit, Morgan's home along Memorial didn't suffer any damage, although his horse had to be evacuated to Brenham.

Since returning to SIRE, he said he was happy to see nothing was really damaged.

"I was happy when I got here and everything was in good shape," he said. "It was a pleasant surprise."

Kateri Hendley, an assistant at SIRE, tended to the horses by giving them workouts the week before classes resumed. During the storm, she and her family evacuated her home by boat in Riata Ranch.

"Our street flooded really bad," she said. "Thankfully, we were literally the only house on the street that did not get water in it, so it was a miracle.

Since riding lessons were cancelled for two weeks, PJ Murray, the site manager at Hockey, said the staff was working on getting the horses and the farm in shape for riders.

"We were really blessed we only needed to do a little bit of clean up and kind of getting everything ready so our riders can kind of get back into their regular program," she said.

Because so much rain had fallen, dehumidifiers were running in the tack rooms where leather goods like bridles, reins and saddles are stored so they wouldn't be damaged due to the excessive humidity.

Despite the inconvenience and damage Harvey has caused so many, SIRE equine manager Paige McDonough said that at least one good thing has come from the floodwaters to help the horses.

"The rain has grown them some good grass," McDonough said.

 
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