Rumbling for the riders

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 25, 2012



LAPLACE — As per tradition, the man known only as “Doc” led the pre-ride prayer at the annual Harley for Horses motorcycle fundraiser Sunday.

He then offered a heartfelt thank you to those in attendance.

“Because of what Anita (Hefler) and her staff do, these people can have a little bit of normalcy,” said Doc. “It’s because of people like you that come out to support this cause that makes it possible.”

Harley for Horses is a motorcycle ride that benefits the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center, a non-profit organization that assists children and adults with disabilities through horse-assisted activities.

This year was the event’s 12th run.

140 bikes and 180 people in all participated in the event this year, making it one of the largest turnouts in the tradition’s history.

Hefler, the executive director of the GNOTRC, said this year’s Harley event raised $9,700 for the cause.

“It was an amazing, awesome day,” said Hefler. “The weather was perfect. I don’t think we could have asked for more. And we had a lot of support and volunteers.”

Participants assembled at the LaPlace Travel Center on U.S. Highway 51 to begin the day. The run took them to Port Vincent for a lunch stop, and riders returned to LaPlace to end the run at Cadillac’s Rock and Country Saloon, where a raffle was held and musical entertainment provided by the band Sac-a-Lait.

“The band was wonderful,” said Hefler. “They were scheduled to play until 5, and they ended up volunteering to stay until after 6. We were rockin’ through the end.”

Brian and Crystal Schexnaydre of Lutcher were two riders that were pleased to be a part of the festivities before the start of the ride

“We’d be riding with our buddy anyway today,” said Brian. “It’s for a good cause, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

The event is not named for Harley Davidson but for Harley the pig, who was donated to Hefler’s riding center 13 years ago. Harley served as the event’s mascot until the pig’s death before last year’s event; Harley for Horses is now run in honor of Harley’s memory.

The therapy at the GNOTRC helps those with afflictions such as spina bifada, cerebral palsy and delayed developmental disorder. Recently, the center has begun helping children ages three and younger.

Hefler said that while none of those children at the center were able to walk at the start of the program, they each progressed and were eventually able to do so.

“Our horses most closely resemble the walking gait of humans … riding the horses can help retrain a lot of that movement and retrain the brain to move in a more efficient way. It helps establish head control, upper body strength and coordination in our riders … Our horses do all the work.”

The fundraiser helps the center keep its fee at $25, the same rate it was in 1993 when the center was established.

“It’s important to us because we know even at $25, it’s difficult for some when you consider the out-of-pocket expenses, like taking time off of work and gas prices. The fundraiser and the donations of so many people have allowed us to not have to raise that price.”

One thing Doc touched upon, in addition to thanking the participants, is the way the GNOTRC affects the lives of those who need its help.

“On those horses, it’s not just the physical aspect, but the emotional,” he said. “For a little while, in their minds, they can be like their heroes.”