KUNA -- The Sun River Equine Youth Ranch feels like home for the Treasure Valley's Wheeler family.
That's because the ranch is a non-profit horse rescue that serves a variety of children. The ranch is run entirely by volunteers, and is funded by donations. There is no charge to families.
That's because the mission is to bring children together with horses and watch them heal.
"They say there's a lot of learning that can happen when a child is actually on the horse," said Kimberly Wheeler. "Our son, he doesn't talk very much, and we heard a lot of times when a child gets up on a horse, they start talking."
Wheeler's son, Ryan, has autism. She says bringing him to the ranch has changed their lives. "I don't think I'd ever seen him laugh until the first time he got on Shadow," said Wheeler.
Ryan isn't the only one who benefits from the ranch, his sisters do too. It becomes a place for the whole family, not just the child.
The ranch is the brainchild of Tanya Ambler and Lauren Koller. The two were neighbors, and now their dream of rescuing horses, helping families, and mentoring kids is a reality.
A TOTAL RANCH EXPERIENCE
However, the Sun River Equine Youth Ranch isn't an official therapeutic riding program, it's a total ranch experience. Participants help to groom, saddle, and bridle the horses before going on rides.
"There's something about a connection of this large animal and the child -- there's a sense of trust and respect there," said Ambler. "There's so much joy that they bring out from these little kids."
Wheeler is grateful for the program and for how it's helping her son grow. "I think they just show so much love to each child, she said. "It's just been really near to see some of the transformations that have happened."
The ranch is always looking for volunteers and always accepting donations.
For more information on how you can get involved with Sun River Equine Youth Ranch, click here.