Horses the star attraction for upcoming Cowboy Gathering
If there was a directory for individuals who have a passion for horses and equine therapy, you would certainly find Darcy Bedortha's name at the top of the list.
Two years ago, Bedortha was working for Heart of Oregon, a nonprofit which provides job skills training, education, and leadership development to local young people who face major barriers to success.
"I was looking at 50, and thinking, "I need to get back into the horse world," she recalls. "The young people that I worked with, and some of our staff — I often would want to get them in a round pen with a horse, because a horse can get through to people, where people can't. Especially people who have experienced trauma."
Twenty-five years ago, Bedortha was a therapeutic riding instructor.
"That's always been part of the healing process for me," she explained.
When all these things came together, she decided this was the time to follow her dream.
"I decided, if I don't do it now, I'm not ever going to do it."
She gave Heart of Oregon four months' notice, and took a part-time job at Crooked River Brewing, as well as a horse boarding stable. She began her nonprofit in May 2019, and had her first therapy session in July.
Darcy Bedortha is the founder and director of H.O.R.S.E.S. Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning.
"We had a group therapy session with a group of young women in recovery," she said of her first session.
Bedortha indicated that, in addition to the therapy, there is a learning element. She works under the EAGALA mode l— Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. She is certified under this global organization.
Her organization consists of herself as a certified equine specialist, a certified and licensed mental health professional, and her horse. Her mental health team includes Robyn Loxley and Alia Beyer.
"It's a three-legged team."
She explained that horses are deeply in tune with body language and nonverbal communication.
"You can lie to your therapist, but you can't lie to your horse," said Bedortha.
Her nonprofit does both individual and group sessions. Bedortha added that they are just getting started, and right now they have been overwhelmed with the response and demand from the community.
"A big part of the demand and a lot of the interest nationally — and a lot of the funding nationally is coming from veterans," she emphasized. "The Veterans Administration recognizes the work."
Donations to her nonprofit are tax deductible. She is able to bill Oregon Health Plan (OHP) and some various private insurances. She is also working on raising funds for a scholarship fund for those who do not have insurance.
According to her website, "We maintain professional accreditation and strive for excellence through ongoing training, mentorship and partnerships with successful programs, offering the best in cutting-edge therapeutic and restorative practices in our work with equine partners and on the ranch"
Current needs for the nonprofit include, but are not limited to: Facilities repair and maintenance, incorporating handicapped-accessible amenities; funding for eight-week sessions for a variety of clients, including special needs students; domestic violence and human trafficking survivors; grief support and addictions recovery.
One of her mental health team professionals is a veteran herself. Bedortha's background is working with youth, and she is always drawn to those who struggle.
"Preventing people going down the path of substance abuse is important to me," she said. "There is a lot of work around the power of this work with young people."
The organization has been getting a great deal of response from parents of kids who are struggling. She also explained the power of equine therapy for youth who have autism — especially those who are nonverbal.
"A nonverbal child will talk to a horse often when they haven't ever talked," expounded Bedortha. "There are stories out there that just give you goosebumps about the things that happen between a horse and a child."
She is hoping to be able to fund group sessions with special education programs eventually.
Bedortha does part of her therapy at Wine Down Ranch and part-time at Dancing Cow Farm.
As a fundraiser for the program, Bedortha, and many people supporting her, have planned the McKay Creek Cowboy Gathering, to be held at the Wind Down Ranch north of Prineville, off McKay Creek Road. The event will be Satuday, Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bedortha said that the Wine Down Ranch offered to help with a farm to fork dinner (to start at 5:30 on Gathering day), and that several acts have been secured for the day.
"It's taking on a lot of momentum," said Bedortha. "I'm super excited."
Among the performers:
Adrian Brannan is a rising star, who has been on the charts with her last album.
"She has a deep, rich, soulful voice," said Bedortha.
Tom Swearingen, Oregon Cowboy Poet, was among the top five in the nation of cowboy poets last year.
A musical partnership with Andy Craigmile and Christine Haskins called "The Gig is Up" will feature performances that are a compilation of originals, as well as a mix of popular cover songs in the genres of rockability and traditional and modern country. Craigmile is passionate about Bedortha's work, and wanted to help.
Wampus Cat, featuring Matt and Rachel Wilson, hail from Silver Lake, Oregon. They are a couple playing acoustic, guitar, banjo, fiddle and harmonica. The sound is full and fun.
In addition, the Cowboy Gathering will include a silversmith family from Paulina. Susan Caron will also be attending with her dreamcatchers and Rick Steber will be there to tell stories.
"The event is free (with donations accepted)," said Bedortha. "I personally want to serve the community, honor it as the western town that we are, and give people some place that they can go with families."
She added that music events can be expensive, and this will be a family-friendly event. For details, see the sidebar.
The McKay Creek Cowboy Gathering is September 28, 2019. Event is free, and donations welcome at the gate. It begins at 10 a.m. and goes to 6 p.m.
It will be held at Wine Down Ranch, 6500 NE McKay Creek Road, Prineville, OR.
For more information about H.O.R.S.E.S. on the Ranch visit https://fundly.com/h-o-r-s-e-s-on-the-ranch
Website is HORSESontheRanch.org
Facebook page @HORSESontheRanch
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