Building on a banner first year |

Building on a banner first year

Cindy Ramunno

America needs more programs like Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center.

Nationwide, communities know there is a need for kids who require a different learning environment – one that addresses social-emotional learning. Ute Springs is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching leadership, self-empowerment and team building skills all while experiencing our valley’s spectacular natural environment. Ute Springs offers a series of four-day outdoor camps where students can learn from mentors and knowledgeable people within the community.

Ute Springs focus

The focus at Ute Springs is to instill increased self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and leadership skills through an adventure-based curriculum. Ute Springs’ camps help kids to gain new and exciting insight about themselves and the world around them. The center works with kids ages 7 to 17.

“Our focus is on incorporating the Colorado state standards for social-emotional wellness, which gives us the opportunity to create inclusive environments where all kids can thrive,” says executive director and co-founder Amy Ben-Horin. “We have also partnered with amazing local organizations to stress the importance of adventure and community.”

Banner opening year

Since opening in July of 2014, Ute Springs has served close to 500 kids.

“This leads to strong ties with families throughout the valley,” says Ben-Horin. “The community has evolved around the organization.”

Ben-Horin credits the Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center Board of Directors, saying they helped create those precious connections through their passion and hard work.

Ute Springs also just obtained its mobile child care license, which was required for program expansion.

“We will double the amount of summer camps we are able to offer and broaden our reach to several new school-based programs in the valley,” says Ben-Horin.

Kids and horses

Ben-Horin said o ne of the most valuable partnerships Ute Springs forged this year was with Mountain Valley Horse Rescue (MVHR) – located in Eagle.

“This relationship began as we were looking for a place to hold our overnight programs during summer camp,” says Ben-Horin. “It has grown from there to a beautiful collaboration where kids have the opportunity to work with and provide service to the rescue horses.”

Shana Devins of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue agreed.

“The Mountain Valley Horse Rescue’s partnership with Ute Springs has been amazing — seeing kids interact with and grow from their time spent with the horses inspires us every day that Ute Springs is on site. Watching the horses blossom around the kids is incredible…they go from being timid and afraid to bold and friendly, learning from each Ute Springs camper the caring and compassion that people have to offer,” said Devins.

MVHR was inspired by the rescue of two starved horses abandoned in November 2004. That event mobilized a group of Eagle Valley horse enthusiasts, who recognized the need for a regional rescue organization. To fulfill that need MVHR was formed in April 2005.

MVHR is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of abused and neglected horses. The group is committed to reducing the number of cases involving horse abuse through community outreach and educational programs.

MVHR works closely with local law enforcement agencies, veterinarians, concerned citizens and private horse owners to rescue unwanted horses in the central mountain area, and throughout the state of Colorado. When possible, MVHR networks to find horses new private homes. When necessary, horses are taken in and cared for by MVHR with the ultimate goal being a return to full health and adoption into loving, forever homes. To meet this goal, each horse is provided with food, shelter, care, medical treatment, and training to help them become adoptable. As space and funding allow, a limited number of horses are provided sanctuary care at the facility for the rest of their lives.

MVHR offers volunteer opportunities for everyone – even those with no experience with horses. They also offer an adoption program for horses, and a gelding program for privately owned horses. They also do a significant amount of outreach and education, through presentation and even introducing kids to horses for the first time with pony rides. They encourage groups to get involved with their cause.

Many are most familiar with the group’s destination rescue program, where they help horses in need through guided interactive activities. Bringing the horses and humans together, everyone develops teamwork, confidence, relaxation and connectedness. MVHR offers this activity for individuals, families and groups, including special needs groups, and it has been highly successful. With its focus on experiential learning, bringing Ute Springs kids in contact with rescue horse has proven to be a winning strategy.

“As human beings, our normal way of thinking and interacting with the people around us is with our feet on the ground. Most of the time, we are not in physical contact with another person or an animal – it’s just us. When we change that, by touching an animal, another person, or especially by getting on the back of a horse, we change the way that we think, just a little bit,” notes the MVHR website. “And sometimes, that little change can be enough to help a person change in larger ways… Like feeling happier, more confident, and being able to let go of bad habits.”

As the program gears up for a second, expanded year, Ute Springs is soliciting donations. Contributions to Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center may be eligible for additional tax credits. For more information or to donate, visit

Likewise the MVHR hopes to own its own facility one day — a space designed for the special needs of the horses they house. The Forty Acre Fund was established to help achieve this goal and donations are welcome at any time. Naming and recognition opportunities are also available. For more information on the MVHR or to donate, visit

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