Woodinville’s Little Bit Riding Center is home to 235 horse riders receiving medical hippotherapy or participating in an adaptive riding program. If that seems like a lot, consider this—more than 200 are on the waiting list to get a chance to join them.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” said Kathy Alm, executive director of Little Bit. “Our case is so urgent because (they’re) potentially missing developmental milestones.”
But the solution is on its way with a move to a bigger facility in Redmond off Avondale Road. The 17-acre plot of land will feature a 40-stall barn, two covered arenas, a welcome center, therapy rooms and a tack barn. Of the necessary $11 million, $8.7 million has been raised so far, Alm said.
Construction is underway, and when the entire project is finished, Little Bit will effectively double its capacity, with space for around 480 riders, Alm said.
Little Bit purchased the Redmond property in 2008, but plans for a bigger space date back to 2004.
“We had a waiting list back then, and we knew it was going to get bigger,” Alm said. “I’m always a little awed by the board in 2004 recognizing this (future problem). They knew to look ahead.”
Currently, fundraising is focused on matching a $250,000 capstone gift from the Murdock Foundation to build the second arena, Alm said. The remaining $82,000 must be raised and the arena must be built before the end of the year to access the gift.
Additional construction still to be completed includes building therapy rooms in a corner of the barn, finishing the tack barn and completing the welcome center, Alm said. Services at the center will begin in January, with a test group of 36 riders moved over. Possibly by next June and definitely by September 2012, names on the waiting list will be brought in, she said.
With the move, Little Bit will transfer all of its current riding operations to the Redmond location but will keep the Woodinville facility open as a research and training center.
After limited space in the Woodinville location, where Little Bit has resided for 35 years, more people will be able to experience the unique opportunities hippotherapy and the adaptive riding program provide.
“It’s something you can’t duplicate in a regular therapy room,” Alm said. “For many of our riders, this is the only activity they have.”