Reins to Recovery celebrating 15 years; fundraiser Saturday

REDDINGTON — In the 15th year of Reins to Recovery Inc. Therapeutic Riding Center, Executive Director Calli Johnson thinks about all of the ups and downs, challenges and blessings along the way.

When she started the nonprofit organization, she never pictured where it would go.

Considering where it’s at now, she said it’s humbling.

“When we say we’re a barn family, that is a true statement,” she said. “Without our volunteers, without staff that go above and beyond what they have to do, community support … I don’t know how we would be where we’re at without that. Sponsors, donors, there’s that whole family. And our clients, they are wonderful. Their belief, their trust in us that we’ve built over the years, just a lot goes into 15 years. Wow! Here we are.”

To keep programming going and cover expenses, Reins to Recovery conducts The Mane Event each year in August. That’s set for 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds, 750 W. County Road 200S, Columbus.

The family-friendly event, open to the public, will include a barbecue dinner, a live auction and a silent auction.

The cost for the dinner is a freewill donation, and it will consist of pulled pork sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, potato salad, watermelon, cantaloupe, cookies and drinks. Johnson said the board of directors provides the meal, and family and friends contribute.

Roger Dierckman will lead the live auction. Auction items are posted on The Mane Event event page on Facebook under the discussion tab.

“We’re hoping this year will be a success,” Johnson said. “Our goal is again that $15,000 — 15 years, 15 grand. Hopefully, we can make that happen.”

She said they have come close to reaching that mark in recent years.

“All of the money raised at that event really goes just directly back into the programs, the overhead, the equines,” she said. “It is the one event that keeps us going so that when we get donors and we get sponsors, we can put that back into the programs and not have to worry about mortgage and all that. It’s an important one.”

Reins to Recovery opened its doors in 2008 near Seymour and moved to property along U.S. 31 just north of Reddington in 2016. It offers therapeutic riding for children and adults with special needs, equine-assisted psychotherapy for ages 5 and up who are victims of violence and abuse and equine-assisted learning for at-risk youth with emotional disabilities and behavior issues.

After the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the annual fundraiser and halted some of the programming in 2020, the organization has bounced back and sustained the programs.

Since the 2022 fundraiser, Johnson said it has been a year of growth.

For the outdoor arena, she said CenterPoint Energy employees spent a day hauling dirt and getting it boxed in with donated lumber, and a grant from Beacon Credit Union will allow for sand to be added.

Last year, Reins to Recovery received a grant from the Columbus Regional Health Foundation to turn a two-car garage into a classroom setting and large group meeting area. That’s now available.

“That was a huge capital project we’ve been working toward,” Johnson said. “That’s just going to allow us to expand with the school groups and large groups. We’ve been able to already use it for our work groups that come out and meetings, so that has been huge. It has been a long-term goal out here.”

The organization restarted its equine-assisted learning program in the fall of 2021 working with Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. students, and they can now meet in the classroom.

“We have school kiddos come out year-round as part of their school day and work with us on those life skills,” Johnson said. “We can use that classroom, and we can take the miniature horses into the classroom if we need to since it’s year-round.”

In the past, temperatures in the winter forced class meetings to be canceled. That won’t be the case now.

“Now that we have the classroom, it can be heated, we can bring the minis in and we have space for the large groups,” Johnson said. “It helps us not have to break that routine in schedule for the kids.”

In the past year, Johnson said there also has been an outpouring of community service groups helping with property cleanup and projects. Besides CenterPoint Energy, employees from Cummins Inc. and Toyota Material Handling have helped.

The organization also has a new therapy horse, Rose, that completed her 90-day training, and she has started off with a few riders. That puts Reins’ herd at 10.

“She is doing very well,” Johnson said. “She was brought on specifically to embody some of our larger riders. As our kiddos are growing up and some of our horses are actually getting to that retirement stage, we’re having to make adjustments to our herd.”

Brewer Pelley, 2, recently started at Reins and has completed sessions with Rose. His grandfather, Mike Kamman of Columbus, already has noticed a difference.

While Brewer isn’t a big fan of wearing a helmet while riding, his grandpa said he is adjusting.

“He’s very responsive,” Kamman said. “They do a good job in working with him, and you can tell being exposed to something else, he’s very receptive. He’s an outdoor boy, so this fits him good. It has definitely worked out great. We’ve been real proud of Brewer. He’s a sweetheart.”

Kamman said it’s great to have a program like Reins available for kids with special needs, and he looks forward to continued progress with Brewer.

“I think it’s really exciting for the kids that need it, for the community people,” he said. “It’s definitely a need, and it definitely works good.”

Reins to Recovery currently has a wait list for all of its programs. While it’s good to see that many people wanting to be part of the program, Johnson said it’s hard to tell people there is a six- to eight-month wait.

“That’s another part of the therapeutic riding, we really need another instructor on board,” she said. “We’re hoping for someone with the equine experience, maybe that special needs population experience that’s willing to get trained and certified. It takes a pretty special person to fill that, so that’s a tough position to fill.”

Johnson, Jenna Carlton and Barbara Phelps juggle the caseload for that program, while there are five team members who facilitate the equine-assisted psychotherapy program.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Reins to Recovery has seen an increase in demand for the latter program.

“We’re hoping to expand out into not only the equine psychotherapy but the traditional because in our communities, there’s such a need for just that clinical therapy piece,” Johnson said. “Most places you call right now, you’re looking at a seven- to eight-month wait list to get into therapy, so we’re trying to accommodate community needs in that way, as well.”

Traditional psychotherapy could be done in the classroom and outdoor space at Reins’ facility.

“The environment would be unique because a lot of the clients that are in traditional, we might sit under the tree versus in an office, so we add a little bit of a difference there,” Johnson said. “We could do the art and painting and set up in the classroom and do things like that.”

If you go 

What: The Mane Event, a fundraiser to benefit Reins to Recovery Inc. Therapeutic Riding Center

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bartholomew County Fairgrounds, 750 W. County Road 200S, Columbus

Who: The public is invited to this family-friendly event featuring a dinner, live auction and silent auction

Cost: Admission is free; dinner available for a freewill donation

Online: Auction items are posted on The Mane Event event page on Facebook under the discussion tab

At a glance

Reins to Recovery Inc. Therapeutic Riding Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers therapeutic riding, equine-assisted psychotherapy and equine-assisted learning to children and adults with disabilities, victims of violence and abuse and at-risk youth.

The center is at 10861 N. U.S. 31 north of Reddington.

For information or to find out about volunteer opportunities, call 812-350-4864, visit, email [email protected] or find the organization on Facebook.