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Challenging the Limits of Disability
Harnessing Hope and Healing


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     NOVEMBER  2018


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 Rush Ranch Stephanie-44 low res 5 Rush Ranch Stephanie-44 low res 5     “

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."  John Muir 

  • Happy Birthdays and Anniversaries
  • Meet Our Drivers
  • Stonewall Sporthorses
  • Para-Driving News
  • USEF Combined Driving
  • Pulling Together
  • Raging Fire Threatens Rush Ranch
  • The Kelpies

Contact Us  707-999-1419


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Happy Thanksgiving for NL low res
"Thanksgiving Day is a good day  recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving." Amy Grant


Deborah Adams - November 3
Nancy Hengel - November 6
Mary Lou Fazel - November 22
Heidi Hall - November 22
Renata Di Battista - November 24


Happy Anniversary and Thank You for Your Years of Service to:

Tatum Baker - 2013
Seth Borrell - 2017
Stephanie Borrel - 2017
Vince Hangman - 2009
Laurie Puzo - 2013
Kristi Satterlee - 2017
Brent Satterlee - 2017


Forty mile per hour winds drove a blazing inferno toward Rush Ranch on Sunday, October 7. The Access Adventure team was working horses with several visitors in attendance. As the towering, wind-whipped flames crested the hills to the east, we realized that we needed to evacuate as quickly as possible.

In September, we met with SVELT, Solano Volunteer Emergency Livestock Team, to plan for just such a crisis situation. We had offered our Rush Ranch facility as a training ground, and as an evacuation center for animals in need of a haven from disaster. This time we were the ones in trouble and needing help.
SVELT volunteers arrived with trailers. Access Adventure volunteers had our horses haltered, lead ropes at the ready. We loaded in an orderly fashion and headed out in a four trailer caravan to the farm of our driving friend Susan Christiansen in north Vacaville.  Mindi McCuen and Tori Laird stayed behind loading harnesses, saddles and tack before fleeing the encroaching flames.
As the fire burned out of control toward Rush Ranch, four fire companies set up a command center at our headquarters. By morning, the fire was 70% contained after scorching 4500 acres. The firefighters stopped the progress of the blaze just short of the eastern and southern borders of the ranch. We dodged a bullet. A devastated, blackened landscape surrounds us.
On Monday, SVELT and Access Adventure volunteers returned our horses to Rush Ranch, with smoke still rising in the south from the smoldering remnants of the fire.



In the coming months, we will feature profiles of each of the current mares in our stable, their 2018 foals, and notable Stonewall Sporthorses currently performing at the upper levels of competition in dressage, combined driving, jumping and other disciplines.

Stonewall Calypso and
Stonewall Samba

Calypso and Samba GF for NL

 We have lost count of the number of Stonewall Sporthorses we have bred at Rush Ranch since 2009 to help support Access Adventure. The first of these that we retained to work in our programs is Stonewall Calypso, foaled in 2011. In 2012, her look-alike full sister, Stonewall Samba arrived. She, too was added to our stable. Under the guidance of Access Adventure founder Michael Muir, with assistance from volunteer Randie Boardman, the two young mares have been carefully trained to perform the demanding tasks of the work we do.

    Calypso 2 for NL
Stonewall Calypso
Para-Clinic photo Calypso for NLCalypso at Para-driving Clinic

Samba for NL
Stonewall Samba

Samba 3 for NL
Samba driven by Michael Muir, Randie Boardman Navigator

Both mares are daughters of the imported Friesian stallion Apollo (Netherlands) and produced by the prolific Stonewall Fantasia, a daughter of the imported Knabstrupper stallion Atlantis (Germany). In 2018, Calypso and Samba produced their first foals, sired by the imported World Champion Friesian stallion Monte 378 Sport (Netherlands). Samba is carrying a 2019 foal by the extraordinary Palousa San Sebastian (Great Britain).
In addition to their responsibilities as broodmares, Calypso and Samba do "double duty" working for Access Adventure. Both mares work as lesson horses for our growing group of carriage drivers with disabilities, teaching a new generation the art of reinsmanship.

Horses and drivers are being prepared to compete in 2019, in the exciting sport of combined driving. Two of our students have set their sights on the 2020 World Championship for Drivers with Disabilities. 
Calypso and Samba have also assumed the regular duties of providing outdoor recreation through accessible wagon rides at our Rush Ranch headquarters. On October 11th, the mares made their off-site debut as a pair at the Antique Carriage Club annual picnic drive at the Daehling Ranch near Elk Grove.



Our family vacation this year focused on many things as we toured England, France, Ireland, and Scotland by car.  Although we saw no herds of horses anywhere, we did visit several interesting sites with equine focuses.   Mary Lou Fazel




The name, Kelpies reflects the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 10 horses; a quality that is analogous with the transformational change and endurance of Scotland's inland waterways. The Kelpies represent the lineage and are a monument to the horse powered heritage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy, pulling the wagons, plows, barges and coal ships that shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area.

Kelpies FOR NL

The 100 feet high horse-head sculptures of structural steel with a stainless steel cladding stand next to a new extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal, near River Carron. The Kelpies are positioned on part of a specially constructed lock and basin, part of the redeveloped Kelpies Hub.


They were designed by sculptor Andy Scott for The Helix, a new parkland project in Scotland and were completed and opened to the public in October, 2013. The sculptures form a gateway at the eastern entrance to the Forth and Clyde canals. The end result is water-borne, towering gateways into The Helix, the Forth and Clyde Canal and Scotland, translating the legacy of the area into proud equine guardians. This canal extension reconnects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the River Forth, and improves navigation between the East and West of Scotland.


 Brenda and Jon for NL 2Jon and Brenda


 zNew Logo low res

Photo Credits: Mary Aiu, Randie Boardman, Duncans (Facebook), John Fazel,  Pat Kastama, Rebecca King, PicsofYou, Laura Watkins (Facebook)



Laura Watkins

Laura and Montelena for NLLaura and Montelena

"I’m Laura, a mother of three, from Kennewick, Washington.  I was used to living a very active lifestyle, playing tennis, colorguard, gymnastics, theater, orchestra, choir, and more. But fourteen years ago, a combination of thyroid disease, PCOS, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, etc. caused rapid weight gain and morbid obesity. Now, everyday tasks like grocery shopping or even showering are sometimes impossible.                                  

After moving to the area from Utah, my husband told me about this wondrous place called Rush Ranch where there were horses I could interact with for free every day. It took me several open house wagon rides and six months to work up the courage to turn in an Access Adventure volunteer application. Our lives have been forever changed. 

Every Saturday morning, for about a year now, my twelve year old daughter, Rebekah, (who has ADHD and is nearly as horse crazy as I am) and I feed the horses. My boys (ages ten and fourteen), both of which are on the autism spectrum, were skeptical at first, are coming to love these wonderful horses as well. I cried the day my son (who was absolutely terrified or horses) willingly pet one of the horses. “They’re kind of like big dogs,” he told me. 
This place is my sanctuary. I walk the grounds, sit beside the pastures, listen to the wind in the grass, sing to the horses and find peace. My family says there’s an obvious difference between days I’ve visited the horses. Depression and anxiety are easier to manage, and I have more energy. As Mike Muir says so often, “This is a healing place.”
There’s a visible change in Rebekah as well. We’ve grown closer as mother and daughter as we’ve shared this time together. She confidently instructs her brothers with feeding and acts as an unofficial Rush Ranch tour guide, telling complete strangers all about Access Adventure and their wonderful horses.

 Bekah and Calypso for NL
Rebekah and Calypso

Being physically limited, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to enjoy riding again. Access Adventure’s therapeutic driving program has been a game changer. Michael is such a patient teacher, even with my slow processing speed, he never loses his temper as he calmly gives instructions. This program is helping restore my self-confidence and get me back on my feet, both literally and metaphorically. It’s counterintuitive, really. I hope to continue this progress, and maybe even one day help others have the same wonderful experiences that we have with Access Adventure."



Stefanie Putnam and  her Morgan, Shadow  win the Intermediate Single Horse Championship at Hermitage, Kentucky  - Kentucky Classic CDE in August

USDF for DISABLED Stefanie Putnam and her Morgan Shadow 1 for NL              Stefanie Putnam with Lauren Kolegraff driving Shadow

USDF for DISABLED Stefanie Putnam and her Morgan Shadow 2 for NL 2
Stefanie Putnam with navigator, Laura Ferran, and groom, Gabriella Nathan-Funk.

USDF for DISABLED Stefanie Putnam and her Morgan Shadow 3 for NL


Allentown, N.J. – Five USEF Preliminary Combined Driving National Champions were crowned at the Garden State Combined Driving Event CDE at the Horse Park of New Jersey on October 12-14. It was the debut of national championships at the preliminary level in order to serve as a catalyst to ignite further interest in the combined driving discipline, and cultivate combinations for the development and elite levels.

Gabbi Preliminary Single Pony National Champion and Sweetwater's Zorah Bell for NL  l

Gabriella Funk (Lexington, Ky.) claimed the Preliminary Single Pony title driving Teressa Kandianis’ Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle, a 14-year-old Norwegian Fjord mare. Funk, 22, is a working student for Berndl at her Whispering Oaks Performance Horses, and was driving in her first combined driving competition. She and Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle were fourth after the dressage phase, they then won the marathon to move into the lead, which they held through the cones phase.

Gabbi at Horse Park of New Jersey 1 for NL

“I’ve groomed and navigated for Leslie [Berndl] for years, so I know driving from being on the back of the carriage,” said Funk, who is also working toward a bachelor’s degree studying online with Colorado State University. “Being able to actually have the reins was an amazing experience.”

Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle has extensive experience at the advanced single pony level and was the pony Berndl drove to the 2016 Advanced Single Pony National Championship. Funk had helped warm up and cool down Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle in training at home, so Berndl gave her the chance to compete with the mare.

Gabbi at Horse Park of New Jersey 3  for NL

“It’s been a long road of building that relationship, and it’s opportunities like this that build confidence and gain experience. I couldn’t have done it without the training and preparation I had from Leslie [Berndl]. And that pony is a rock star,” Funk said. “It’s a great way for me to make a splash in the driving world. Not having had much experience, being able to compete at a high level and handle the stress was great. It was nerve-wracking going into the show knowing it was a national championship and being a little green myself, but it is really exciting and promising for the future for me as a driver to win.”


Access Adventure driver Caroline Strongman competed in early October at the Clay Station Fall Classic in Wilton, California.

USDF Caroline Strongman for NL  Caroline Strongman driving Maurice 


Every teamster knows that to get the task done you need horses that can work together smoothly, each leaning into the collar to accomplish the job. In that same spirit, Access Adventure relies on an all-volunteer team to provide our free services to people in need.

Any sensible person would say our business model is unsustainable. We don't charge for what we do. All the programs of Access Adventure are free. We have no paid employees.

Although we receive donations, and the occasional grant, our work is supported mainly by our horses, a notoriously difficult and risky business.

Yet, somehow we survive, and thrive, and grow...all these years. The secret is the contributions of a remarkable team of volunteers, some of whom have been with us from the very beginning. This is
the lifeblood of Access Adventure. We couldn't do our life changing work without them.

Jon and Brenda Duncan

 Jon and Brenda are two of the "unsung heroes" of Access Adventure, often toiling long hours out of the limelight, taking on the myriad tasks that keep an all-volunteer organization functioning.  Originally from Suisun, their children include a profoundly disabled daughter. This sparked their interest in Access Adventure. Volunteering since 2009, Jon has served as President of our Executive Committee, while Brenda has served as Secretary since 2012.

Jon Duncan for NL 2 2
Brenda for NL 1


 Moving to Elk Grove September 2012, where they are closer to their grandchildren, Jon and Brenda continue to commute to Rush Ranch for regular work days (the dirty work that keeps us rolling), our monthly Open House "Get the Rush" at our Rush Ranch headquarters, assisting with "foal watch" as we anticipate the newborn additions to our stable, as well as signing up to help nearly everytime that Access Adventure goes on the road.
The contributions that Jon and Brenda have made over the years don't always include our time in the spotlight. The countless hours that they have worked for us have been instrumental in helping us to provide our free services to people with disabilities, injured veterans, the mobility challenged and children with special needs.

Thank you, Jon and Brenda, for your years of selfless service to Access Adventure.


Enriching the lives of people with disabilities and underserved members of our community by providing outdoor recreation, open space access, education and therapy through a working partnership with horses.


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P. O. 2852
Fairfield, California 94533

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