That’s the best way to describe the annual horse show and open house held Saturday at the Banbury Cross Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Metamora Township.
It was pure joy for the riders, pure joy for their family and friends, and pure joy for the horses.
“We have 51 riders today,” said Banbury Cross Executive Director Jessica Moore. “I think that’s a record for us.”
Founded in 1991, Banbury Cross is well-known and respected for using horseback riding to help students with physical and cognitive disabilities grow emotionally and socially while improving their overall physical fitness. The organization works with special education programs and students from both the Oxford and Lapeer school districts.
“We usually have about 80 (riders) a week,” Moore said.
Banbury Cross is fully-accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International, a nonprofit organization that promotes equine-assisted activities and therapies for children and adults, including veterans, with special needs.
According to Moore, Banbury’s annual horse show and open house gives riders “the opportunity to show off the skills that they’ve been working all year to master.”
“They can show off to their family, their friends, whomever they choose to bring out,” she said. “I think it’s such a confidence boost (for them) . . . For a lot of our riders, this is their sport. This is what they’re able to participate in.”
“It’s also a chance for individuals in the community who might be interested in our program from a volunteer standpoint, or (as) a prospective rider, (or as) a prospective supporter, to see what it is that we do,” Moore added.
This year’s event had a superhero theme. The horses had emblems on them representing comic-book legends such as Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America and Iron Man. Some of the riders wore masks.
“I think everybody has their own little superpower. Everyone is a superhero in their own way,” Moore said.
Moore described this event as “such a day of pride” for the riders, the staff, the volunteers and herself.
“Everybody works so hard to get to this point,” she said. “This day is so heartwarming for me.”
Banbury currently has 11 horses and six part-time employees, including Moore, who’s spent 10 of her 12 years there as executive director. They’re backed by an army of volunteers. On a weekly basis, Banbury Cross is assisted by approximately 70 volunteers.
“Our volunteers do everything from help prep the horses for classes to assisting riders in the classes, whether it’s leading the horse or working alongside the rider,” Moore explained.
Banbury also has volunteers who don’t work with the horses or riders. These folks help with mailings, assist with fund-raisers and coordinate work days on the 20-acre farm to spruce things up.
Although 70 volunteers a week sounds like a lot, Moore assured, “We can always use more.”
“We’re continuing to expand,” she explained. “Our volunteers are so great and they’re so loyal, but they can only be here so many days a week.”
Banbury Cross is conducting an orientation for new volunteers on Saturday, Sept. 2 from 10 a.m. to noon.
“If anybody’s interested, they can call the office,” Moore said. “We’re always looking for people who have a talent they can share with us. If somebody’s good at a certain type of fund-raising or grant-writing, we welcome that.”
For more information about Banbury Cross, please visit www.banburycrosstec.org or call (248) 628-7433. Banbury Cross is located at 1223 Brauer Rd., just west of M-24.