Turn down the dusty, desert road off Rio Verde Drive and it takes one into the wide-open West, but right on the edge of this bustling metro Phoenix area.
There is a large golf subdivision just over the fence across the road, but it’s not really noticeable; and that’s okay because entering the gate at Reigning Grace Ranch is supposed to be a place to leave the problems and stress of everyday life behind, even for a few hours.
A cheerful and enthused Amanda Moore is the founder and director of this ranch that has over the past decade made a difference in the lives of so many foster children, children with learning disabilities and now veterans in need of healing. It is a place for respite and renewal that comes with the hard work of learning about ranch life and equine sciences.
Moore says there are only two full-time employees at Reigning Grace Ranch, but with more than 130 active volunteers 2019 was a good year for the facility.
During the past year 232 at-risk foster children experienced more than 35 hours of one-on-one mentorship developing character and life skills. The ranch’s first ever week-long summer camp had 28 children from the foster community participate.
“Kids who come through here never have an opportunity to experience horses any other way,” Moore said.
The ranch also hosted 454 special needs youth for a two- to three-hour experience with horses and programming focused on tactile and balance, core muscle strength development. Another 326 students came from schools for weekly programming to learn service, horse husbandry, science, self-care, confidence and leadership.
The ranch also hosted 5,460 encounters with those who were not children or students. That included organizations that came to learn about the ranch’s programming, volunteering, corporate teambuilding and shared experiences.
There were also nearly 100 parents who attended a voluntary “parenting program” defined by the “Cowboy Code.” This was offered to parents by a volunteer therapist while their children were in session.
The educational aspect of the ranch goes beyond helping those with special needs. Programs address university and technical school needs including Pima Medical Institute and Scottsdale Community College. Veterinary assistant programs welcome the opportunity to work with large animals at the ranch.
Currently Moore has a group of U.S. Marine veterans who visit the ranch on a regular basis just to help out.
“They may be working on projects that are not necessarily related directly to the horses,” Moore said. They may be tackling a maintenance or construction project.
“They will work through issues with a horse,” Moore added. “It is not easy working with a horse.
“This is a place for healing.”
Recognizing many veterans and first responders may need that opportunity to heal, Moore is launching “Heroes and Horsepower” this spring. A kickoff for the program, with a ribbon cutting and pancake fundraiser, for veterans and first responder programs will be held March 21, with the first session set for April 18.
Reigning Grace Ranch has the distinction of being one of the largest horse rescues in the U.S., according to Moore. It is not just the people benefiting, the animals get help also.
The livestock at the ranch includes more than 70 horses, miniature horses, burros and a variety of pot-bellied pigs and dogs.
Reigning Grace Ranch was recently a beneficiary itself, when William Edward Phipps bequeathed the funding to construct a covered arena at the ranch. The William Edward Phipps Cowboy Arena allows for shade and fans for riding and working with horses during hot summer months or rainy conditions. It also gives the ranch a venue for special events and activities.
Phipps was a Hollywood actor at the time of the Western heyday. He appeared in dozens of movies and television shows. When he passed away in 2018 he remembered Reigning Grace Ranch.
Phipps had heard about the ranch and its programs and was thrilled to offer support, according to Moore. They are pleased to put his name on the arena.
Reigning Grace Ranch will participate in activities in Fountain Hills on Thursday, Feb. 6, surrounding the Pony Express ride through town as it makes it way to Scottsdale on its annual ride from Holbrook.