Residents get chance to horse around
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Perry Kippes still was smiling big Sunday evening, hours after doing something that made him feel like a youngster again.
"That was the first time I rode in a horse buggy since I was this high," Kippes said, holding his hand 3 feet off the ground.
The 88-year-old Kippes talked about his childhood days "back in the '30s" when his family used horses for transportation.
Kippes smiled again.
"That was fun today," he said, nodding his head.
That's exactly what Lori Appelhans had in mind when she started planning a horse show for her mother, Eileen Pratt, and other residents of Via Christi Village earlier this year.
Appelhans moved her mom to Hays from Hoxie in November, and while visiting her at Via Christi Village one day, started talking about horses and "our days in 4-H," Appelhans said.
"Those were some of the happiest days of her life," Appelhans said of her mother.
Pratt, who suffered from dementia, had grown up participating in 4-H in Sheridan County, then was a leader during the years when her nine children also were in 4-H.
"We thought that would be a good way to acclimate her to a new place and remind her of happier times," Appelhans said of the horse show idea.
But Pratt died in April, taking the fun out of planning the event for Appelhans, who thought of dropping the idea.
However, some of Pratt's friends encouraged Appelhans to go on with the show, to host it in Pratt's name.
So on Sunday afternoon, members of the Bits 'N Spurs 4-H Club -- of which Pratt's granddaughter, 12-year-old Aubry Appelhans, is a member -- put on a horse show to remember for the Via Christi Village residents.
There were rodeo queen and princess royalty and live music, horse-drawn carts and buggies, pole racing and miniature horses, snacks and hot cocoa and coffee.
"Eileen wanted this so bad," said Denise Hilty, a resident of the Munjor neighborhood at Via Christi Village who became fast friends with Pratt when she moved in nearby. "So I'm glad Lori went ahead and did this, in (Pratt's) honor."
"I thought a lot of Eileen today; we had such a good time together," added Hilty, who shared the same birthday as Pratt. "I really enjoyed (the show)."
Appelhans said her daughter did a project talk on horse therapy this past year, enhancing her idea that bringing the elderly in contact with horses would be good for them.
"We've done (horse shows) at a couple other facilities here in Hays," Appelhans said. "And we saw a 91-year-old turn into a 19-year-old that day. It's all about triggering something positive for them."
It certainly did that for one soon-to-be 89-year-old; Kippes' birthday is Nov. 3.
"We drove a (horse-drawn) buggy to school in Vincent, and to church, so I knew I wanted to go to that show when I heard about it," Kippes said, still smiling. "... sure glad I went."