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Riders at Old West Special Trails fighting to keep ranch open

Old West Special Trails in Eads, where rescue horses work with horse lovers, has been open for the past 32 years and is raising money to keep its gates open.

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Horse riders are on a mission in Eads to help save their ranch, Old West Special Trails.

They’re trying to raise enough money to buy the property they’ve used for the past 15 years. On the land where they rescue horses, which in turn do some recusing of their own.   

“Good girl, preferably you don’t come up the ramp with me,” Emily gently chided her horse Misty, as she made her way up a ramp with her walker.  

With any friendship, trust is built over time.

“Easy,” the rider directed.

When horse and rider connect, it can be as if they’re one. 

“They are my mobility,’ explained the 35-year-old. “When I’m riding them, my legs don’t have an issue, because her legs are fine.”

Emily has cerebral palsy. She’s had difficulty walking since she was a toddler, and the disease also heavily affects her eyesight.  

“I know as long as my horse can see, I’ll be fine," she said.

At Old West Special Trails, where she rides Misty she shared, “it’s a time for me where I don’t feel like I’m any different from anybody else.”

She said Old West, which has helped people for 32 years, is a ranch where she can ride without restraints or as she said ”bubble wrap.” 

“That’s another unique thing about this place is there’s not just ‘oh you only do this if you’re disabled, or you only do this if you’re not disabled.’ It’s just whatever works for each individual student," she explained.

Carley Taylor, 12, has been part of the Old West program for two years.

“I was a little nervous, it was after I kind of got to do it more,” said Taylor. “It just became my favorite thing ever.”

Now in the horse ring, she feels fearless, free and in her element.

Taylor’s mastering trick riding, the elegant art of acrobatics all on a trotting horse. 

“You have to just commit,” Taylor said of her practiced stunts.  

The young rider is one of many homeschooled students who say their time at the ranch is like recess. 

When asked, what makes the ranch special to her, she responded, “it’s good therapy, if something’s going on or if you’re a little bit sad or something then you can go and ride. It’s like this warmth.”

A place where the horses are changing lives, with a faith-based approach.

“That’s the kind of thing that we really want to do, that’s why we’re here,” said Debbie Cooley, who co-founded the ranch with her husband Danny. “It’s more of a ministry than it is a business.”

So they’re fighting to be saved, in order to continue saving others.

At a true “home away from home,” said Taylor.  

Old West Special Trails is working to raise $200,000 before March 15th. If you’d like more information on how to donate, go to their GoFundMe page.

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