Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Riding with Angels
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- On a 50-acre farm in Palmyra, you'll find the nonprofit organization Riding with Angels.
President Marianne Schulz rescues abused and neglected horses, something she's been doing for much of her life. The work made her realize animals can rescue people, too. So, she came up with the idea to combine the two.
"This is the highlight of Nick's day. He loves to eat," Schulz said, standing next to a large, white horse, a captivated group of children gathered around her.
Getting up close to a horse -- especially one this big -- is a new experience for a lot of these kids.
"Oh, this is heavy," exclaimed one girl, holding Nick's feed bucket.
They came out to this 50-acre farm from Milwaukee’s Silver Spring Neighborhood Center.
"Each experience a kid has here is very impactful," said Silver Spring's youth director, Ashley Campbell.
Marianne Schulz makes sure of it.
"I hope that they walk away with a sense of value for life," she said.
The horses tell the story.
"Nick came to us about four or five-hundred pounds underweight," she told the group.
She's been rescuing and rehabilitating animals who've been neglected and abused since 1989.
"He was a carriage horse in Milwaukee, who the owner wasn't able to provide what that horse needed, and he did surrender him," she explained.
The farm is full of stories like Nick's.
"Hope is a quarter horse," Schulz said.
She was 250 pounds underweight and traumatized when she arrived.
"Hope was part of a group of horses we rescued from Louisiana," Schulz said. "They were on their way to a slaughterhouse."
With love, attention and care, these horses heal.
"There've been many times I wanted to quit because of how hard it is. And just seeing the bad part of humans, right? There's good and bad," she said.
But Schulz knows helping the animals brings out the good in people, too. So, she brought her organization full circle.
"That's the cool thing about animals. We rescue them, but they really rescue us," she said with a smile.
Ashley Campbell sees it all the time.
"Animal therapy is a good way for me to talk to kids," Campbell said of their visits to Riding with Angels.
And it's not just horses.
"We have alpacas, deer. We have a zebra," Schulz said.
Yes, a zebra.
"Some people buy sports cars, I got a zebra," she said with a laugh.
The variety of animals gives the kids options to connect.
"Some of the kids will identify more with some of the smaller animals, some of the big animals," she said.
Sometimes, it's just trying new things.
"You gotta jump," a volunteer tells a little girl, attempting to get on a horse. "I'm scared," she replied.
"It allows them to talk. It allows them to build confidence. It allows them to do things they wouldn't typically do," Campbell said.
Like riding a horse.
"Push with your left leg, like you're stepping up," the volunteer said as the girl got on the horse's back.
"It was kind of scary, but it was fun," said 14-year-old Shania King.
"Now you have an experience that you will never forget, because somebody cared and they took enough time to invest in you," Campbell said.
Schulz's passion for her work is clear.
"I don't even know how to gather my thoughts," she said with emotion, when asked what this work gives back to her.
It can be hard to put into words how much it means, but seeing each kid take a small step towards success, each animal is living a better life -- that's what makes it all worthwhile.
"I'm incredibly blessed and truly grateful, and for me to be able to help others through the animals is a tremendous blessing to me," Schulz said.
Riding with Angels is hosting an open house on Aug. 26. For more information, visit their website, https://www.ridingwithangelswi.org/.
And if you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected].