Off to greener pastures | June 12, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - June 12, 2009

Off to greener pastures

Equine program says good-bye to faithful steed

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Carrot cake was on the menu Saturday as Villi, an Icelandic horse, spent his last day with the SonRise Equestrian Foundation, which gives riding sessions to children with emotional or physical challenges.

"Villi is the perfect horse for our program because he is sure-footed and very loving," said SonRise CEO Melanie Buerke of Danville. "As an Icelandic he is sturdy, which enables us to put larger people on him and makes him very secure for children who may feel scared or need extra support."

One of Villi's final riders was Charlie Cleberg, 11, who despite having little use of his arms has learned to ride and has even learned to rope with his feet at SonRise. At the farewell party, he raced Emma McGregor, 13, who has also struggled with physical challenges.

Villi will be leaving for Oregon where he will live with the family who loaned him to SonRise in February 2008. He was one of four therapeutic riding horses participating in the SonRise Equestrian Foundation programs at Charles Wilhelm Training Stables in Castro Valley. The Foundation is looking for another horse to replace Villi.

"Villi's quiet, unflappable and loving demeanor helps to provide children with the confidence to ride," said Executive Director Alana Koski.

SonRise Equestrian Foundation is currently planning its third annual Wine & Equine Festival and would appreciate donations of premium bottles of wine for a drawing. Anyone who is interested in more information about SonRise can call 838-RIDE (838-7433) or visit


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