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Coon Valley nonprofit needs hay for therapy horses

Kaitlyn Riley



Photo credit: Shiloh Rose Photo + Film

It is no secret this year’s cool, wet weather hurt agriculture, but the impact does not just hit farmers.

HorseSense in Coon Valley said the high demand for hay prices has the nonprofit worried about feeding its horses throughout the winter.

HorseSense offers opportunities for children, adults, and veterans with physical and mental disabilities to ride horses and develop a bond with the animals.

“If you are really wrestling with something stressful or traumatic that has happened to you, coming to interact with that horse and ride, you can kind of escape that for an hour and just be present and experience the freedom for riding,” Samantha Hall, executive director, said. “Some of the riders with physical disabilities can’t walk, so getting up on a horse and being able to ride is the most freedom they will experience throughout their whole week.”

Because of the weather conditions this year, hay fields were compromised, and some were even destroyed because of flooding.

Hall said the circumstances made high-quality hay in high demand and cost. HorseSense is prepared to spend more than $10,000 on hay in the next couple of months to ensure it can feed horses through the winter and spring.

“We know we will not be able to find hay available for sale January through March, and our first cut of hay that we grow on the property isn’t ready until June,” Hall said.

To help cover costs, HorseSense is launching a campaign called A Bale a Day. Hall said each of their 10 horses eats a small square bale of hay each day, and each bale costs about $5.

“It definitely helps to have the community come together,” Hall said. “We’ve seen a huge increase in people wanting to get involved and support us, so we are thankful for the generosity the La Crosse area has to offer.”

Hall said HorseSense has been active for 30 years, but its program recently reared with interest. Ridership grew from 37 in 2017 to more than 105 this year.

“We help a wide variety of riders, whether it is a four-year-old with autism, or you have a 65-year-old vet with PTSD,” Hall said. “All of them are welcome to build a relationship with a horse at our organization and work through their different obstacles and different issues in a welcoming, safe space. Animals have such a sweet, non-judgemental, non-threatening presence for people to feel welcomed and accepted, and to feel that connection that helps them break out of their shell. ”

Donations to provide feed for the horses can be provided online. HorseSense is also accepting donations in the form of resources whether it is extra hay from a farm or the use of a truck and trailer.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.