PORT ORCHARD — For some, horses are life. For others, they could grow up never even seeing a horse in person.
Gerald Brown, manager of the Riding Place in Port Orchard, and Frank Tower, owner of the Riding Place, decided to try and reduce the number of people who have never known horses by introducing a group of foster children to them.
On Dec. 22, a group of foster kids was given guided tours, dinner, visits with Santa and horseback rides at the Riding Place.
“Horses have — what do we call it? They’re such a great therapy tool,” Brown said. “But there’s a saying … unfiltered emotion. That’s what we like about horses. They have an unfiltered emotion that they bring to the kids.”
Tower said that horses simply make kids feel good.
“Horses have been my life,” Tower said.
Brown is new to the Riding Place, coming here from California, where he worked for a nonprofit horse riding academy. There, he worked with the local police activity league, taking kids out to teach them about livestock, horsemanship and survival skills.
Brown said he shared his experience with the Tower family, and “they gave us an opportunity to come here.”
Now, under Brown’s management and with the help of his brother Ken, they’re starting up similar programs in Port Orchard. Introducing foster children to the horses was only the first step. They also hope to work with kids from juvenile detention halls — which Brown did in California — and veterans with PTSD.
“I’m retired military,” Tower said. “I’ve been trying to get a PTSD program going. We’re still working on it.”
Before starting a program, they have to work with the military to find out what they want out of those programs and what stipulations are involved, so nothing is firmly planned yet.
Thanks to Brown’s efforts, alongside his brother Ken and Tower, the group of about a dozen Port Orchard foster children had the opportunity to come to the Riding Place and meet some horses. Some of them had never seen a horse before, Tower said.
When given the opportunity to finally climb up on horseback, the reactions ranged from nervous to excited, but there was no doubt each kid had a smile on their face.
Why are they doing this? Because it’s a good thing, basically.
“I can remember back when I was a young lad … I didn’t have much,” Tower said. “St. Vincent de Paul helped my family out. I’ve helped out over the years, mostly with 4-H clubs.
“I don’t know if I can give you an actual reason,” he said. “We do it because it’s good for them.”
He said there’s always “some satisfaction for doing good things,” but they’re not doing this to recruit more paying members of the Riding Place or to earn money — they’re full up, he said.
“The horses are basically our life,” Tower said. “We just like doing it.”
Brown added, “We’re giving back. We’re giving back to the community and teaching other people who don’t have the opportunity how to get their hands in and help the community. It’s very important.”