Spotlight: Horsing Around, Shepherd Youth Ranch

by Mimi Montgomery

More than 20,000 children in Wake County are affected by or are suffering from trauma, are underserved, and are in need, Shepherd Youth Ranch statistics show. The nonprofit’s mission is to help.

The faith-based organization partners children and their families with horse “counselors” for equine therapy and riding sessions. The group also has a program specifically for low-income children with special education needs who use horsemanship as a means of connecting, focusing, and learning.

In 2016, the ranch provided over 140 free sessions of equine-assisted therapy to autistic children, served over 50 people in its equine counseling for trauma program, and provided weekly sessions to children struggling with anger management. Its volunteer base increased by almost 100. 

This month, there’s another way to get involved: The organization will host its second-annual Triangle Indoor Tailgate Polo Tournament fundraiser Feb. 4 at James B. Hunt Jr. Horse Complex. During the polo match, tables overlooking the arena will be available for purchase, which attendees can then deck out with festive dishes, beverages, and decor. There’s a reason to go all out: Tables will be judged in categories of best food, best signature drinks, best dressed table, and best overall theme.

“Last year we had a table where participants dressed like the Harlem ‘Slow’ Trotters right next to a black-tie ‘Run for the Roses’-themed table,” says development director Abby McCabe. “Everyone had a blast.” In between chukkers (periods of the polo game), live music and games will round out the sporting day. 

The ranch hopes to raise $350,000 by August 2017 to provide a permanent facility for its mission. The raised funds will also help the nonprofit increase its programming quality and audience by 300 percent. 

Feb. 4, 4 – 7 p.m.; James B. Hunt Jr. Horse Complex, 1025 Blue Ridge Road;
to purchase tickets or buy a table, visit