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Sheriff’s program builds kids’ confidence

Placer County Sheriff’s deputies work with kids to educate about horses
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Children are learning how to care for horses and interact with sheriff’s deputies this week. The 18th annual Placer County Sheriff Department’s Ride With Pride started Monday and continues through Thursday at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn. The program runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. About 40 children ages 7 to 12 participate in the free program each day. Ride With Pride informs kids about the anatomy of a horse, horse grooming and saddling. It also gives kids a chance to become familiar with local sheriff’s deputies and how the deputies use their horses for crowd control and day-to-day patrol. “This program is using the horses to bridge the gap between the kids in the community and law enforcement,” said Lt. Kevin Borden, Ride With Pride co-founder. “It instills a lot of confidence and sets them at ease if they see a law-enforcement officer out there.” The donation-funded program offers children fun activities like a ride in a horse trailer, a horseback ride and a boot race. Children also have a chance to interact with Placer County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue officers as well as police dogs, Borden said. Borden said he hears positive feedback about the program from parents in the community. “We get tremendous comments from the parents about the time we have taken with their kids,” he said. “Parents are extremely grateful for the program. They learn a lot.” Caroline Weaver, captain of the Placer County Sheriff Mounted Search and Rescue unit, said the program helps community children recognize the uniforms and horses of the unit, which could help deputies find missing children in the future. “A lot of times children get lost, so we want them to recognize us and our horses,” Weaver said. “The more we get involved with children, then they can tell no one is really going to walk around in this (orange) uniform on purpose, other than what our purpose is. A lot of these kids have never even been near a horse. They see that even though a lot of them are big, they can be gentle.” Walnut Creek resident Kathleen Smith, whose 8-year-old daughter was participating in the event Tuesday, said she thinks the program is extremely informative. “It’s been great,” Smith said. “I think it’s giving them a good chance to understand a little bit more about the care of horses and understand a little more about what the Sheriff’s Department does.” Gina Stone of Rocklin said children are also getting a chance to socialize with kids they would have never met otherwise. “I think it’s really beneficial because it also brings a sense of community to the children,” Stone said. Rocklin resident Thomas Gonzales, 9, said Tuesday he enjoyed interacting with the horses. “You get to learn about them,” Thomas Gonzales said. “They are sometimes very fun.” Rocklin resident Kaitlyn Gonzales, 7, said the whole program was fun. “I like everything,” Kaitlyn Gonzales said. “They make funny noises. They are very very big.” Borden said the program is the longest running in the Sheriff’s Department, and none of it would be possible without the volunteers who come out regularly for the event. “A lot of our staff have been out here since the inception,” he said. Borden said the best part about the event is simply seeing the looks on the children’s faces. “The kids come out with a big smile on their faces,” he said. “They are really excited to see the animals in general. It gets them really excited to learn. By the end of the day they are really confident.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com