The love of horses is something that often strikes us at a young age. Little children begin by drawing horses, collecting models, or if they’re really lucky, getting pony rides or lessons. But for some children the dream to spend time with horses will remain just that.

In Ontario’s Durham region, one local woman is trying to make riding more accessible to children in need. Meghan Ney, who started riding at the age of 38, has created a fundraising campaign for the local Children’s Aid Society to get kids onto horses for the sake of their health and well-being. Called “Own Your Story,” the fundraiser sold hoodies and t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, collected monetary donations, and hosted a silent auction on June 5, all of which have raised $5,000 to date ‒ well ahead of Ney’s original goal of $3,000.

Ney, who works in communications, first started her site and fundraising to help riding schools and “schoolies” during the pandemic. Now she’s turned her attention to this new initiative.

“I know that for a lot of families, the cost of lessons means the sport is out of reach and I wanted to be able to find a way to make it more accessible for kids who could use some horse magic the most,” she says. “Which led me to the Durham Children’s Aid Society and subsequently, the Durham Children’s Aid Foundation, to partner with them in administering the funds to the families they support.”

According to Ney’s website  there are nearly 300 youth and children currently under the care of Durham’s Children’s Aid Society (DCAS). Among these are kids in foster and group homes as well as Crown wards. There are also another 500 families that get help from DCAS for anything from emergency shelter, clothing, counselling and even urgent care.

Ney says this puts the actual number of kids getting assistance from DCAS closer to between 700 and 1,000. Many of the children suffer from low self-esteem or learning disabilities, as well as mental health or behavioral issues. The positive impact that being around horses and riding has on such issues is well-documented, and Ney wants to ensure these kids get the chance.

The outdoor wear is still available for sale and, if you choose, you can also make an online cash donation. Ney explains that any future funds will be added to the current amount raised to pay for more riding lessons. “Ideally, it would be great to get one group of kids riding for a month and then have funds to either pay for lessons for a new group, or pay for additional lessons for kids that really connect with the sport and horses,” she says.

Ney and the owner and coach at Bay Belle Stables where Ney rides, Amelia Gartner, are in discussion with the Durham Children’s Aid Foundation to create family days at the barn.

“This will be an opportunity for kids and their families who are supported by the Durham Children’s Aid Society to come and spend a few hours with the horses, learning how to groom them, lead them, having a lead-line ride, doing arts and crafts, etc,” Ney explains. “The goal is to offer them once a month, with the exception of the winter months, free of charge.”

Listen to a sample of one of the many For The Herd Stories here: