Horse Program

About Our Horse Program

The Sunshine Acres Horse Program is an on-site, hands-on horseback riding lesson program in which the children and staff of Sunshine Acres are provided the opportunity to learn and improve their horsemanship skills. Run by a skilled team of equine professionals and dedicated volunteers, our barn is second to none in providing a safe and loving environment in which to learn, and ensuring the most excellent care for our horse companions.

While our primary focus is on safe horse handling, riding, and care, we strive to teach more than just barn applicable lessons. Our program helps instill key life skills such as compassion, confidence, teamwork and communication. Throughout their time at the barn, children are taught a system of what to do and how to find the answers they need to prepare to ride or complete chores. Our staff and volunteers are always there to guide and help, but we choose to emphasize independence and promote children learning to self-start whenever possible. Our hope is that our riders will continue these positive life patterns long after they leave our barn.

In our program, each child is paired with a volunteer mentor who assists the equestrian manager in teaching them how to work safely with horses from the ground up. During their riding lessons, children learn to catch, groom, tack up, and ride their assigned horse. In addition, riders are taught supplemental horse knowledge such as anatomy of the horse, footfalls/rhythm of the horse’s gait, proper names for the parts of tack, and much more. Children involved in the horse program are also expected to help with barn chores before or after their lesson, including feeding and barn maintenance, to help them learn not only how to ride but also many of the important aspects of care that go hand-in-hand with horse ownership. Our goal for this program is to give these children a well-rounded education and help them become competent, confident equestrians for life

Interested in donating to the Horse Program?

Horse Program Volunteers

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many of the Sunshine Acres programs, and the barn is no exception! We are blessed to have truly wonderful volunteers willing to work hard to help us provide exceptional care for our animals and individual attention in lessons for our children. Our program could not be what it is today without such immense help and support from the community!

We are often looking for new volunteers in the horse program to help with the daily work associated with care and lessons. While prior horse experience always helps, we teach you everything you need to know for these positions so volunteering is accessible even to those with little to no horse knowledge.

Our horses are very gentle and many of our volunteers were new to horses prior to volunteering with us and are now trained and able to help in many aspects of our program! There are different volunteer positions at our barn. Please read the descriptions to best understand how you may be able to join our team!
Ranch Hand: As a Ranch Hand, you will help with the daily care, feeding, and cleaning in the barn. Ranch handing can be physically challenging work, especially in the Arizona heat, but because of our chores system ranch handing is typically only a 1-3 hour commitment. The time it takes to complete chores depends on building teamwork with the other volunteers you work with and the size of the group you join.

Generally, we find most groups take a few weeks to get on track and then they get into a rhythm that makes chores go by in a flash! A Ranch Hand never works alone. You are always paired with at least one other volunteer or staff member to help you! If you already have a group of friends who wants to volunteer on a regular basis with you, we may be able to give you your own shift. In a typical shift you will clean stalls, fill water buckets, throw hay, feed grain, and turn horses in or out depending on the time of day. Depending on your time availability, Ranch Hands can also help groom or wash the horses after chores are completed. While Ranch Hands do not often work directly with the children of Sunshine Acres, understand that through this volunteer position you are doing tremendous work to help keep this important program running for the children. Healthy, happy horses = a better program for the children. Everything here comes full circle!

Lesson Mentor: In order to be a Lesson Mentor, you must complete one full season of Ranch Handing, no exceptions.
The reason we have this prerequisite is twofold. First, it helps us get to know you as a volunteer. Second, it helps you get to know our barn procedures and the individual personalities of our horses. As a Mentor, you will assist the Equestrian Manager with riding lessons. Your primary responsibility is to help riders as they begin learning to groom and saddle for the first time, as well as aiding in safety checks before we help a rider mount the horse. Mentors also work one-on-one with children who may be struggling with certain exercises in the lessons, lacking in confidence, or having a tough time emotionally that day. Many of our volunteer Mentors take comfort knowing that teaching the riding lessons or lesson planning is not their responsibility, and the Equestrian Manager or another member of her staff will teach the lessons and run the program.
The children of Sunshine Acres love interacting with their Lesson Mentors, often developing strong bonds with them over time. It makes our children feel very special that a volunteer comes out every week just to see them! If you are looking for a great way to touch the lives of both our horses and our children, consider Ranch Handing with the intent to move onto becoming a Lesson Mentor!

If you are interested in volunteering your time with us, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at 480-832-2540 for more information!

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