RIO GRANDE — Patti Slayton, manager of Rio Valley Stables, has loved horses for as long as she can remember. But she knows that it takes more than love to run a successful stable. It requires hard work, a community of helpers and fellow horse-lovers, and, of course, a barn full of well-trained horses.
“This place runs mostly on volunteers. If it weren’t for the volunteers, we wouldn’t exist,” Slayton said, adding that she only keeps horses with friendly and tractable dispositions. “We have young riders and volunteers, and safety is the most important thing.”
As Slayton gears up for the stables’ summer session, she looks back on RVS’s beginnings in 2009.
“I’ve loved horses all my life, and while I was taking care of my parents who were ill, I realized that I wanted to something I loved before I left this world,” said Slayton. “I have a bachelor’s degree in social work, and I wanted to combine my passion for horses with a desire to help people.”
Slayton finds that her social work background comes into play during the management of some of the programs with which the stable has become involved.
“We have kids who come here through the Work Incentive Act organized by Gallia County Jobs and Family Services,” Slayton noted. “These kids are learning what it is like to have a job; they’re learning how to work for something, and how the world works.”
Slayton added that many of the participants return as volunteers after the conclusion of the program.
The stables are located on Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande.
“It was formerly known as Bob Evans Farm Stables,” Slayton noted, “We got the name Rio Valley Stables in 2006, and opened the stables in 2009.”
It was hard in the beginning, Slayton said.
“When we first started, a 4H group brought us 12 round bales of hay to get us through the winter. It’s great to have neighbors like these,” said Slayton. “Gallia Countians are really good people. They helped so much in enabling us to open; it was the Gallia Countians who volunteered and provided food and resources.”
Slayton said that fundraisers at Bob Evans Restaurant have been helpful, as well.
“The restaurant has been faithful to us; they’ve allowed us to have our Community Fun Night, which we have on the first Wednesday of every month to raise money for the SPECA program, and they’ve helped three children a year participate in that program.”
RVS is located on Bob Evans Farm, and is open for trail-riding every day of the week, with lead and arena rides for those age nine and under.
“We’re open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.,” Slayton said, “and we start trail rides 10 a.m. But we can always schedule rides at other times, as well.”
The Summer Program for Exceptional Children and Adults, known as SPECA, starts up in June. HOPE Intervention Center and Gallia County Family and Children First Council help support the program, and, as Slayton explained, it offers its participants something unique.
“They experience something they’ve never experienced before,” Slayton said. “And they come back year after year.”
As the school year has wound down so the Summer Adventure program is poised to begin. All children ages seven and older are eligible for the summer program, which is arranged in five one-week sessions, the first of which began June 10, and will run through the middle of August.
“The after school program and Summer Adventure first focuses on learning basic safety and handling of horses, after which children can move up to the next level: learning to ride,” said Slayton.
College students can learn to ride at RVS now, as well; the University of Rio Grande has summer courses which center around horsemanship.
“I teach the basics, and Mark Abel teaches at the intermediate level,” Slayton said. “I’ve always wanted to do this, and I’m very grateful for the courses we have.”
And of course, trail-riding is available throughout the summer for those simply desiring to sit back and see the countryside.
“It’s a good place to come and relax and have fun,” Slayton said, “You get out in those trees and you get so calm.”
Those desiring more information and a full list of services and prices, may visit the web site at www.riovalleystables.com, or the RVS Facebook page, or call (740) 245-5342, or visit the stable itself during the open hours listed above.