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Funds raised for equine therapy

Children had the chance Saturday to get their faces painted and to pet horses, rabbits and goats - all to help raise funds for the Dream Equine Therapy Center.

The York-based center opened in 2008 as a nonprofit providing emotional support and wellness to the terminally and chronically ill through petting and spending time with rescued and rehabilitated horses.

Owner Terri Stemper grew up with horses in her hometown of Lexington, Ky., and never left them. She works as a nurse in York County. Working with cancer patients gave her the idea for the center.

"Patients would always ask to come out and see the horses," she said.

People can make appointments for therapy sessions with the horses at no cost or by donation.

Stemper also takes horses to hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities.

It's difficult to explain how the horses can be therapeutic, she said. Sometimes, the therapy comes from just petting a horse and talking to it.

Some of the horses are troubled, too, she said.

"They work together and fix each other's problems," Stemper said.

One of Stemper's patients, who suffers from multiple sclerosis said, "It takes away your stress. It makes you have a better day."

Last year, however, the focus turned to rescuing horses, as people were giving away horses because of the economy.

Stemper said they rescue between 30 and 50 horses each year. They're trying to adopt and rescue nurse mare foals.

Fundraisers such as Saturday's event and other financial support will help feed the rescued horses. Once they have a bigger piece of property, Stemper hopes to resume visiting hospitals and schools with horses.

Barnyard Celebrations brought miniature donkeys and horses, pot-bellied pigs, bunnies, sheep and goats Saturday. Children took pony and horse rides for $5.

"It was fun," said 6-year-old Graysen Stikeleather, after being helped down from the horse. "I like being up tall."

Les Ward brought his two children.

"I love the bunnies," his 6-year-old daughter, Scooter, said. "They're so soft."