A Ride for Good at Halleck Creek Ranch
This scenic Nicasio ranch runs therapeutic horseback rides for people with disabilities, offering a unique experience. [Sponsored]
Photos: Dean Ruggiero
Halleck Creek Ranch is located on a historic, 60-acre ranch, nestled in the West Marin valley of Nicasio. The ranch's herd of 18 therapy horses provide services to nearly 100 children, adults and families each week with the help of hundreds of volunteers throughout the year. It allows people with special needs to experience the strength and liberation of riding on horseback.
Molly Scannell is the executive director of the ranch. She has an animal science degree from Cal Poly and is certified in therapeutic riding from the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. As part of our social impact series featuring our advertisers who are doing good in the community, we spoke to Molly about her work.
How did you become interested in getting involved in helping causes that have positive social impact?
I was introduced to the concept of volunteerism and to the Halleck Creek community by a friend's family when we were 10-years-old. We instantly fell in love with the horses and being outdoors, but it wasn't until I got a little older that I began to realize the real impact a program like Halleck Creek has on the lives of those who become a part of the community, whether they are riders, volunteers, donors, or community members.
What makes you passionate about the cause you support?
I am passionate about providing services to individuals who need it most, who are chronically under-served in our community or who cannot afford to benefit from all our community has to offer if not for the generous support of others.
How long have you been doing this kind of work?
I became a part of the Halleck Creek community as a youngster, joining the ranks as a youth volunteer at the age of 10. I instantly fell in love with the horses, and enjoyed meeting new people, learning about horses, and gaining new friendships week after week, year after year. I volunteered regularly on Saturday through high school, and then left for college knowing that a career in equine assisted activities was my passion and goal in the coming years.
Do you have a story about how the work of your organization has had a positive impact?
In 2015, we were contacted by a family whose teenage daughter, Sophia, wanted to ride. Physically impacted by her cerebral palsy, Sophia required full-time support from at least one of her parents and used a power wheelchair to navigate the world around her. Sophia’s story is one of strength, perseverance and inspiration. In the words of her parents:
“We brought Sophia to Halleck Creek to help her gain flexibility in her hips and legs and to strengthen her weakened core muscles. Although Sophia wanted to ride, she was incredibly anxious that it would be painful after having had so many surgeries. For many weeks she was so anxious and worried during her lessons, that we began to wonder if she should continue riding.
Despite her anxiety about riding, Sophia was always up for going each week, so we kept at it. And then things began to click: Her core strength and flexibility in her hips increased and there was less discomfort when mounting and riding her horse. Because the amazing volunteers and instructors supported and listened to her so patiently, they won her trust and she realized that she could do it!
Today, Sophia is no longer apprehensive, anxious and fretting about being on the horse. She is giggling, teasing, and interacting socially with her instructors, volunteers, and her horse. No one can believe that she is the same girl who used to be so fearful. She is more confident and truly proud of what she can do, posting pictures and videos of her weekly ride on social media to share with friends and family.
The benefits of riding have been so much more than just physical: It has increased her self- esteem, confidence, willingness to try new things, and expanded her social interactions and communicative abilities. And all of this comes with the added bonus of being able to get out and experience nature on the trail rides of Halleck Creek’s beautiful ranch.”
Is there anything else you want to share?
We operate on a small staff with only four full-time employees, so volunteers play an integral role in our ability to provide our services. I'd like to invite those who think they might be interested in volunteering with us to reach out to learn about the various opportunities we have here at the ranch. Orientations, tours, and trainings for new volunteers are held quarterly, and no previous horse experience is necessary. As a former volunteer here, I can attest that our volunteers get more out of volunteering here than they ever expect to. Join us!