Mother and daughter ride horses to help others

Lavon Martin of Hillsboro and daughter Tisha Creitz of Newton enjoy horseback riding and helping people. And they have found a way to do both at the same time.

Martin and Creitz participate in charity trail rides, fund-raising events where horseriders collect donations designated for a particular cause.

The two women will join other riders in the Charity Trail Ride for the Luekemia & Lymphoma Society, Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, sponsored by KZSN in Wichita.

Martin and Creitz have become pros on the charity trail ride circuit.

They participated in their first trail ride near Manhattan more than five years ago, an event sponsored on behalf the American Cancer Society. Martins said the ride had about 520 people signed up, with 490 who actually made the ride.

Martin discovered charity trail rides several years after her 65-year-old father lost a long battle with cancer. She wanted to turn her grief into positive action that might help others. With sometimes as many as 500 riders, charity rides can raise a good sum of money.

“They are a lot of fun,” Martin said. “You saddle up your horse and ride the hiking trails on the back of a horse instead of walking.”

Sometimes the rides last a full day, and other times they may be overnight trips with a campfire.

“It’s a lot of fun enjoying Kansas scenery, camping, spending time with people and just riding,” Martin said.

Prizes are given as incentives forriders to collect donations. The gifts are given to the youngest rider, the oldest, the one having traveled the farthest, and, of course, the rider who raises the most money.

Martin said she has seen riders as young as 2 or 3 years old, and more experienced riders who were up in their 80s.

Martin did not grow up with horses, but has always had a love for them.

“I used to go and ride horses that belonged to the help when I wasn’t supposed to,” she said. “But I loved them.”

She said people even recognized her special relationship with horses, sometimes labeling her “half-horse” as a child.

It wasn’t until after she married Jack Martin that she owned her first horse, and now horses are an important part of her life.

Besides riding, Martin and her daughter break and train the horses they raise to show in different classes. The women have won several championships and awards in 4-H, different county shows and state fairs. They show the horses in halter classes, barrel racing and pleasure classes.

“These horses mean a lot to me,” Martin said. “Once I was having a really hard day and went out to the barn to be alone. While I leaned against the stall door, one of the horses came over and put his head over my shoulder. He knew I was upset and was doing what he could to make me feel better.”

Martin said the two women have had their share of “horsebreaking” injuries, but nothing serious-at least none that she can remember.

But her daughter recalled one incident when her mother was thrown off a horse that had panicked suddenly.

“She got up and rode the horse back and continued with life, but then would say odd things and repeat herself,” Creitz said. “She even drove over to pick me up at school, where I had not gone for a year!”

Creitz said the family convinced Martin she needed to go to the doctor, who confirmed she had sustained a mild head injury. Martin recovered within a few days, but has no recollection of the accident or several days before or after the accident.

Martin and her daughter have participated in several charity ride events, including Reins of Hope, an organization that promotes the use of horses in therapy for handicapped children and victims of multiple sclerosis, strokes and other debilitating diseases.

Martin explained as the patients ride the horses, the movement of their bodies on the horses “retrains” the mind and muscles to begin movement again. She said there are two area groups-one in Hutchinson and one in Wichita-that she is aware promote the therapeutic use of horses.

“I hit the streets when it is time to get donations,” Martin said. “I even go to businesses and ask for their support. Sometimes it is hard to people to give, they just don’t have it, but I keep trying-it is for good causes.”

Martin is also president of the Kansas United Women of Today, formerly the Jaycee Women. She said they are planning to organize two charity rides for late this summer and early next fall.

The organizations that will benefit are Women of Domestic Violence and Toys for Tots.

Martin said she knew of a couple of facilities in Wichita that had to be closed because of a lack of funding for women who needed help, and she could foresee more problems with such organizations, including rising utility and fuel prices.

“People want to give more, but they just can’t. They have to pay bills,” Martin said. “But the women in trouble still need the help.”

United Women have had some conversation with the bikers’ group that sponsored the Toys for Tots run the last several years in Hillsboro.

“We kind of hope to have our two rides together to show bikers and cowboys get along and can have a good time,” Martin said. “We’d have a joint barbecue or dinner of some sort together at the end of the ride, and have a great time.”

Martin’s husband, while not a horseman, also participates in fund-raisers.

She said he’s done his share by bowling for St. Jude Hospital.

“He has been great,” she said. “He lets us do our ‘horse things’ and he does his bowling.”

Jack Martin has taught bowling at Peabody and is considering doing some bowling coaching at Newton as well.

For more information about the charity rides or Kansas Women United, contact Lavon Martin at 620-367-8262.

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