Life lessons come in all shapes, forms and fashion but the virtues of responsibility, respect and characters are rites of passage many would argue everyone needs.
But some children don’t have the privilege of finding these lessons at home, from loved ones.
The Horsense Equestrian Youth Riding Camp is a place where Scottsdale youngsters --- those who would most likely not have a chance otherwise --- are brought to a ranch in north Scottsdale and taught the tenets of horsemanship in turn instilling the ideas of responsibility and character.
Now in its 20th year, Horsense --- the working program of Health World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on educating children on healthy lifestyles --- offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to students through partnership with the Scottsdale Unified School District.
“Horsense is a program of Health World Education whose mission is to provide children with information to build healthy lives,” said Peter Rusin, executive director at Horsense. “The mission of Horsense is to create a meaningful, enjoyable learning experiences that enriches children’s lives through the development of character, leadership, and social development.”
MacDonald’s Ranch at 26540 N. Scottsdale Road is the site of the five-week alternative, after-school program for Title I students at Scottsdale Schools.
“It is amazing to see how being around a horse can help build a child’s confidence,” Mr. Rusin explained.
“It is something about how a rider directs the horse, while also respecting the horse’s autonomy and power. The child learns the importance of the trust between a rider and horse and how impactful and humbling that is.”
Over 300 students and about 55 volunteers come together regularly during the school year to make the after-school program a reality, Mr. Rusin points out.
“Horsense goes beyond giving campers new skills and a welcoming place to go on Saturday mornings,” he said. “It provides them with a unique experience where they feel valued, respected and invested in. Horsense can be a source of excitement, pride, self-confidence, camaraderie, safety, curiosity, and/or respite depending on a child’s needs. The connections campers make to each other, adult volunteers, or high school mentors can also provide a support to daily struggles.”
For 60 years, the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of those who call Scottsdale home meanwhile promoting the community’s ties to its western heritage.
“This has been a difficult year for all during the pandemic,” Mr. Rusin said of a reality none are immune this calendar year.
“The Scottsdale Charros have been our ‘Title Sponsor’ since the very beginning and they came through again this year. Their leadership feels it is important to enrich children’s lives with new skills, experiences and relationships. Without their support this year programs would not have taken place.”
The Scottsdale Charros --- through The Charro Foundation --- provided the equestrian camp focused on Title 1 students a $25,000 grant to maintain operations amid the time of the novel coronavirus.
“The Charro dollars go toward providing the camper gear, program supplies, food, equipment and camp improvements,” Mr. Rusin said.
For Scottsdale Charro, Rick Carpinelli, the Horsense effort is personal.
“It truly is one of the greatest volunteer operations I have ever seen,” Mr. Carpinelli said of his first-hand experience. “I am so proud to be part of an organization whose members founded and continue to support such an amazing program.”
Mr. Carpinelli explains the effort at Horsense is much more than a check-passing spectacle.
“It’s not just funding, the program takes volunteers to operate each and every week,” he said.
“Many of the volunteers are from our Scottsdale police force, including our most-recent Chief of Police, Alan Rodbell and his wife. This is not just some token participation by Alan and his force, these guys and gals run the program. It just comforts me to know that the shield (the police force) that is out there protecting us has such a warm and caring heart.”
--- Rick Carpinelli
Mr. Carpinelli, his son Charles, took on the program recently.
“Horsense is clearly a made up word, but now, having gone through the program with my 9 year old son, Charles, and his buddies, Cal Nillen and Drake Stanton, I think the name is perfect for the program- there is some horse training but there is a bunch of life sense training,” he pointed out.
“My son not only learned how to ride a horse but he learned what to do if he became stranded in the desert. He not only learned how to care for a horse, but he learned skills to help him manage other children’s poor judgment and influence with drugs plus many other life lessons.”
Mr. Carpinelli confirms an experience that will stay with him, and his son, Charles.
“Horsense provides something the majority of children do not get to experience, the opportunity to build a relationship with a 1/2-ton horse, while spending time in the beautiful foothills of the Sonoran desert,” he said. “Away from their smart phone, video games and social media, children get the opportunity to connect with something not subject to an algorithm. Nature takes Iver and fills their heart and soul with life purpose.”