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Oklahoma volunteer moved to action, caring, giving

Volunteer at Sunset Therapeutic Riding Center in Yukon witnesses miracles every day she works with horses and children who have special needs.
by Bryan Painter Modified: December 22, 2013 at 9:00 pm •  Published: December 22, 2013

Volunteering is a moving experience for Glenda Bitner.

It moves her to care and to give. It moves her to action, to tears, to laughter. And it does even more than that.

“It moves us beyond our own selfishness and helps us to understand others,” Bitner said. “We all have wounds and hurts, but we can use these experiences to help others understand, heal, and build bridges of cooperation and understanding.”

Bitner is going on her fifth year as a volunteer at Sunset Therapeutic Riding Center in Yukon.

The program uses horses to provide a form of therapy for people with special needs. Each participant is matched to a specifically trained therapy horse based on the needs of the rider.

Always on the move

And at the program, Bitner is seemingly always on the move.

She is on the feed team. They feed the horses every morning and evening, muck their stalls or paddocks and just “care for them like responsible animal owners would do.”

She is a side walker. The center usually has one walker on each side of the horse to keep the child safe, help with information the instructor gives and serve as the child's cheerleader.

She is a horse handler. The helpers walk the horse on a lead line and that job is staying focused on the horse and its behavior to keep everyone safe. They also listen to the information given by the instructor and follow directions.

And there's more.

“Some of the kids can't sit up and have little to no head control so they need a back rider to hold them while riding,” Bitner said.

Beth Taylor, administrative director for Sunset Therapeutic Riding Center, said Bitner coordinates the adopt-a-horse programs with the Yukon schools, helps with all activities and events and is in training to become a certified instructor.

Bitner said when they started the adopt-a-horse program in the schools, they focused on allowing the students to vote for a horse and then have a fundraiser to support that horse for basic food and care.

This year funds raised are going toward helping their fellow students who participate in the program.

In terms of events, they offer monthly gatherings for the Sunset family that Bitner helps with if things are needed. The center has a large team that puts these events together.

Their students also participate in horse shows. She helps load supplies and groom horses.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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