Luci Center benefit will celebrate horses, new start

Name : Walt Reichert/Sentinel-News Associate Editor

Amateur photographer Molly Raper has captured hundreds of horses on film in nearly every kind of setting, from wild horses splashing in water on the beaches of North Carolina to a pair of therapy horses rough-playing in a pasture in Shelby County.

Raper is donating 53 of her framed photographs to a fund-raiser for the Luci Center Saturday, May 13, from 3-6 p.m. at the Smith-Berry Vineyard and Winery in New Castle. The event, including live music, wine tasting and appetizers, is free. Glasses or bottles of wine are extra. The photographs will be displayed and sold from the winery’s Clifford Amyx Gallery, built inside a refurbished dairy barn. The event will also include a drawing for a night for two in the Snug Hollow Bed and Breakfast near Berea.

Raper is one of more than 100 volunteers at the Luci Center, a therapeutic riding program for children and adults with physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Among the center’s 30 to 40 clients per week are people with autism, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injury. The Luci Center has been in Shelby County for eight years.

“The horse and the human gait are strikingly similar mechanically,” said Paula Nieto, executive director of the Luci Center. “If they have difficulty walking, putting them on a horse gives them a new set of legs. It helps with posture, trunk control and breathing issues.”

The Luci Center recently moved from Ky. 55 North near the Henry County line to the former Tir Na Nog farm at 500 Hebron Road. The new location has fewer acres but more space for the horses, Nieto said. Included in that space is an indoor arena, which will allow for riding year-round. At the Ky. 55 North farm, the Luci Center was limited to lessons in the late spring, summer and early fall. With year-round capability, Nieto expects to expand clientele to as many as 100 per week. The center will give private as well as group lessons. The indoor arena will also allow the Luci Center to work with the school system, Nieto said.

“Before, we were getting ready to close just when the schools were opening,” she said.

With more clients comes the need for more horses and the feed, bedding and tack they need. That means Nieto has to spend more of her time raising money as well as the profile of the Luci Center.

“We have kept a low profile but we can’t be quiet anymore,” Nieto said. “We want to be a growing part of Shelby County. We want to have a positive impact on the riders’ lives, the lives of the horses and the lives of our volunteers.”



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