Friday, September 17, 2010

The "Mane" Event

Waterford Township fireman Mike Reiter
assists rider Jeramiah Maguran at a past
OATS "Mane" event.
The sky was gray and murky puddles formed in the mud from the recent downpours that pelted Southeastern Michigan. I had scrambled out of work and arrived at OATS (Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles) around 4:30 — a half-hour later than I had wanted. A handful of riders were already in the arena on horses. I took over with one, which freed Lynn Daniels up to instruct. The young woman I walked alongside was independent and easy to talk to. I started to relax. It was nice to be away from a cubicle and be near animals and people.

Since I can't make it to the OATS "Mane" Event on Sunday, I wanted to be sure I could at least help out beforehand, because Nancy Heussner, owner of OATS, said volunteers are scarce in the fall.

The event is a once-a-year shindig, starting out with a pancake breakfast. About fifty to sixty riders have registered to take part in the horse show, and spectators are encouraged to partake. Vendors and games will be available as well. All of the riders go home with trophies. The hardware is refurbished — whether it's from a past bowling or baseball championship, Nancy makes it special for the riders.
After about twenty minutes, the second batch of riders arrived. I was matched with a gentleman who was much more nervous than the previous rider. Nancy handled it like a pro, though. She's like a mother — she loves you, but she doesn't put up with crap. When the rider got agitated, she started asking him about dinner, the horse, anything to relax him. When he said he was tired, she reminded him that we hadn't even started yet.

We took the horses and riders to the outdoor arena — the fresh, cool air was refreshing. I was glad I'd grabbed some old shoes, because it was swampy outside. After about an hour, we headed back in, and I watched as more experienced volunteers untacked the horses.

I stayed a bit longer and chatted with Nancy while I attempted to take notes with my now cold, uncooperative fingers, for a small print article. She spoke emotionally about how hard this month has been, and I found myself fighting tears. She talked about how this month reminds her of people who had supported OATS, who are no longer alive. It was hard to watch this rough 'n' tumble woman get emotional. I doubt she told me everything, and who would? I'm still a reporter with a notepad in my hand. What impresses me though, is how she focuses on the riders. No matter what may be happening in her personal life, she keeps it professional for them. It was only once they were gone that it fully started leaking through.

OATS is such a special place, and it's in part, because of Nancy's passion. To learn more about that passion, check out the "Mane" Event, which begins at 8:30 a.m. with a pancake breakfast. followed by the horse show at 9:30 and lunch at 11:30. The event will also feature clowns, music, train rides, games and vendors at Springfield Oaks Park, 12451 Andersonville Road at the Oakland County Fair Grounds. For more information, visit

1 comment:

  1. Val, thanks for helping out at OATS and for sharing your experience with the reading public. OATS is a very special place and Nancy is an amazing person. Those who are fortunate enough to volunteer at OATS know both of those facts.