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A horse of a special color

April 27, 2009 By JESSICA SIEFF Niles Daily Star

BUCHANAN - Though the air clung to a slight chill by early afternoon Thursday, the sun was shining down on the students of Cedar Lane Alternative High School in more ways than one. The students gathered at The Trailhead in Buchanan for a special unveiling by the Silver Beach Carousel Society in their honor. The organization has been working hard, gearing up for the new Silver Beach Carousel set to debut later this year. Thursday's unveiling was of one of the latest additions to the carousel, 'Petey.' a hand carved, hand painted horse built "in honor of all 'special riders,'" those with special needs who find a sense of fun and therapy through riding. 'Petey's unveiling included the students at Cedar Lane to commend them for their work with the school's Reach for the Reins program. "The students at Cedar Lane High School in Niles are often referred to as losers," The Trailhead's Pat Forbes said in a statement. "However, for the last two years at a farm in Buchanan, these students have shown what heroes they really are." The Reach for the Reins program, Cedar Lane students have spent time at The Equestrian Center in Buchanan, helping those with special needs. "It takes anywhere from one to four extra people to help a special needs person to ride," Forbes said. "The students at Cedar Lane do just that. They work hard throughout the school year to learn horses from the ground up and then offer riding lessons to students from the Lighthouse Education Center. "The work is hard and dirty," she said."But the Cedar Lane kids come out in all kinds of weather to accomplish the goal of helping others." As part of the new Silver Beach carousel, 'Petey,' named after a beloved horse buried on a hill at The Trailhead who passed away last November and "helped a lot of people to ride," will join 26 horses, 22 animals and two chariots, each built and finished by artisans and sponsored by area individuals and organizations including Michigan State University, the City of St. Joseph, the University of Michigan and the State of Michigan. Suz Schalon, president of the Silver Beach Carousel Society said the horse reflected Forbes' dream. "She feels so strongly about the program and both the light that it creates for the students at Cedar Lane and the (Lighthouse) students," she said. 'Petey' features several elements that incorporate the program, the students and the overall essence of special riders, including a mural of a special needs rider being helped by a guide, hearts and a Red Bud tree floral motif. "There is no other horse in the world like this horse," Schalon said. "Literally, there is no other special riders horse." 'Petey' will be on display at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA until he takes his rightful place on the carousel in November. Though, one can imagine, he'll have a permanent place in the heart of each student at Cedar Lane High School, and all of the special needs riders they have touched through Reach for the Reins.