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Mentoring with horses: 5 Questions with Ben Lester at Stable Days Youth Ranch

The youth ranch offers a variety of free mentoring services for kids.

Ben Lester, president of Stable Days Youth Ranch. (submitted photo)

For 5 Questions this week the Herald speaks to Ben Lester, president of Stable Days Youth Ranch , at 17721 429th Ave. SW, in East Grand Forks. The nonprofit ranch is located on the site of the former River Bend Supper Club.

Q: You offer youth mentoring services at Stable Days. What do those services entail?

A: The sessions that we have for our youth mentoring program are 90-minute sessions that we incorporate at least three different elements into, timewise. It's approximately 30 minutes of horsemanship, then 30 minutes of some type of chore, then 30 minutes of an activity that could include gardening, pottery, building a birdhouse, going out on the water in a kayak or fishing.

Q: Is learning with horses an effective way to mentor young people? Why is that?

A: Yes, it is a very effective way. It teaches a lot of different organic lessons that any human can benefit from, particularly kids. That would be number one, learning how to care for another living creature. So the responsibilities, teaching empathy for the animals, learning new skills, you know the basics of handling a large animal like a horse safely. What we find as a result of that is the kids gain self confidence. We find it to be very beneficial both mentally, physically and emotionally.


Q: Who are your services for?

A: We serve children between the ages of 5 and 17. They don't have to have any kind of particular background. We have kids come with different diagnoses, we have kids come from healthy, happy situations, and everything in between. And it’s a free program.

Q: Who serves as mentors?

A: Mentors are folks from the community, typically college students. We draw on a lot of students from UND, UMC over in Crookston, Mayville, we get some from NDSU and then other adults from the community. In order to be a mentor, they have to be at least 18 years of age, and then we screen all of our mentors for safety purposes. We do a background check and go through a pretty rigorous application with them before they can come on staff.

Q: What else offered at Stable Days?

A: We'll go fishing down on the Red Lake River or we may have an archery competition. We're going to be building a new obstacle course in 2021 for this summer that we're very excited about. Our gardening program is really a robust program that a lot of kids like to get involved in. They'll start from germinating seeds, what we're doing now, all the way through to harvesting in the fall. They get to participate, based on their interest level, in all those activities and maintaining the garden throughout the summer.

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