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Reno Rescue, Empowerment Center come together for emotional day of fun, hard work

Updated: Jun. 19, 2021 at 6:18 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Riding to recovery.

On Saturday Reno Rescue and the Empowerment Center came together for a day of fun, hard work, and therapy.

“I enjoy the outdoors and I enjoy animals so this is a really good experience for me,” said Aysa Castro, a member of the Empowerment Center.

For a select few women Saturday was a chance to ride a horse once again. But for many, it was their first time.

“I’ve petted a horse but I’ve never really rode one so this is going to be a big rodeo for me,” said Tonaya Porter, another member of the Empowerment Center.

The women out on the ranch from the Empowerment Center have had it rough. The center is a place where those struggling with substance abuse can go to get back on track.

“It’s a life changing experience to get back on your feet, get a job, get yourself together, save some money, get a car, and start over from square one,” Porter said of her experience at the center.

Her friend, Castro, agrees.

“If I was living the life I was living before I would never be able to experience (riding horses).”

Cara Virden, Reno Rescue’s program director, provides this life-changing opportunity of riding horses. At her ranch she and her staff take in the abused animals to give the them a purpose in life. Reno Rescue gives horseback riding lessons for disadvantaged people, and with help from the Reno Rodeo Association, offers adaptive riding thanks to donated tack and ramps.

Giving people a chance is something close to Virden’s heart.

“This just gives me an opportunity to love people who may not feel very loved right now in their life.”

As for the day itself the women at the Empowerment Center got to trot around on horses and experience something positive. There is a trade-off, however. These women clean stalls and brush the horses in return.

The bond between a rider and a horse can change lives.

“That just makes people feel really special - the horses love them,” Virden said. “(The horses) are not judgmental creatures at all, they’re forgiving, and I think for people who are coming out of a place of feeling judgement and being unloved...it’s like what a better combination?”

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