TIFTON - A local program that helps handicapped children gain self-confidence through horseback riding is looking for sponsors to help with expenses.

U Can Too Therapeutic Horseback Riding works with children with a variety of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy and problems with coordination. The labor-intensive riding therapy requires as many as three people to work with one student, depending on the child's situation.

"Our fees keep the center going, feed the horses and pay for the equipment," said director Cindy Thalheimer. "We need donations to help keep the center running; we're really low on funds. And we also need volunteers."

Thalheimer said cuts in funding from a charity that pays for some of her students' lessons has left those children in need of sponsors. The center is also trying to raise enough money for a covered arena so the kids can ride regardless of the weather.

"Some of the sicker children can't ride in the winter, so they could ride longer if we had the covered arena," she said. "Some can't take the heat and could ride longer into the summer."

Volunteers for the non-profit center could raise funds, help with the newsletter, clean stalls, paint, assist with horse shows, write grants, take photos or groom horses in addition to helping with actual classes, which are taught four or five times a week.

The center also needs a ramp so that wheelchair-bound students who are too heavy to lift can get on the horses. Thalheimer said the ramp might make a good project for Boy Scouts or a woodworking class.

Students at the center compete in Special Olympics Equestrian Shows and will host an event in the fall in Tifton.

Anyone who might be able to volunteer, build a ramp or make a donation may leave a message for Thalheimer at 387-6562.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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