Janesville woman hosts event to connect people to horses

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Anna Marie Lux
Wednesday, July 23, 2014

JANESVILLE—Sarah Grundahl sat on a horse before she walked. She hopped aboard a pony at age 5. Years later, she was named 2005 Midwest Horse Fair queen.

Today the 27-year-old can't imagine a day without horses, and she wants to share her passion.

Sarah is part of a national effort this summer to connect—or reconnect—people to horses.

She and her mom, Kathy Cantrell, are inviting the public to their farm south of Janesville on Saturday, Aug. 2.

In a free event, people can watch demonstrations of showmanship, Western and therapeutic riding, jumping and barrel racing, to name a few.

They also can pet and groom horses. A few lucky ones will win rides.

Sarah registered to be part of the national Time to Ride Campaign. The American Quarter Horse Association and American Horse Council issued a 100-day challenge to introduce 100,000 newbies to the world of horses beginning June 1.

“I want everyone to feel the joy of horses,” Sarah said. “Lots of times, people just see them on TV. I want people to see their personalities.”

She and her mom own seven horses at their 91-acre farm, and they know each one by its distinct personality. Her favorite show horse craves peaches and loves to please. Her favorite therapeutic horse is a gentle angel.

“He'll take anything from a child,” Sarah explained. “He'll go as slowly as I need.”

Sarah has been a special education teacher at Craig High School for five years. She became certified as a therapeutic riding instructor a year ago.

“I started the riding program to share horses with people,” she said.

She also knows how riding horses improves coordination, balance, fine motor skills, endurance and strength.

Sarah works with nine clients at her indoor arena and is adding more. She also has a large outdoor arena, flanked on three sides by distant trees.

“Some therapeutic riders have never touched a horse,” Sarah said. “It's amazing to watch them go from never being near a horse to not wanting to get off the horse.”

For several years, Sarah volunteered at SMILES, a therapeutic riding program in Walworth County.

“That's where I realized I wanted to be a special education teacher,” she said. “I also knew I wanted my own therapeutic program.”

Sarah has been an active 4-H horse project leader since age 19.

“I want to help people be more educated about horses,” she said. “I don't want them to be alone in learning about horses.”

Sarah grew up with horses.

“But it was her decision to be involved with them,” Kathy said. “Horses teach kids responsibility and that they have to care for another creature. They learn it's not always about them.”

Sarah calls her equine companions “wonderful magical creatures.”

“I love watching kids ride and connect with them (horses),” she said. “I want everyone to have connections with horses.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.



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