As construction continues in the background at Rock Ranch west of Hills for a new indoor arena, Dan and Marie LaRock (far left) work with volunteers Monday to prepare the ranch and its horses for the 2020 therapy sessions. From left are Dan and Marie LaRock and volunteers Lisa Dinger, Alexis Gardner-Swenson, Dolores Bundeson, Sylvia Fick, Michaela Abels and Gus Jacobson.Workers with Balster Construction of Pipestone put rafters into place Monday for the new indoor arena at Rock Ranch. Volunteers with the nonprofit equine therapy organization kicked off a capital campaign in October and, as of Friday, are $40,000 from the $680,000 goal.Rafters are lifted into place Monday by Balster Construction workers at the new indoor arena currently under construction at the Rock Ranch west of Hills. The facility, which offers three unique equine therapy programs to individuals, is expected to be in operation by June.

Rock Ranch raises funds to raise roof on arena

Dreams of a Rock Ranch indoor arena are becoming a reality as builders lift the rafters into place this week.

Dan and Marie LaRock began their equine therapy program in 2016, and for the past two years, they dreamed of an indoor facility to avoid weather-related program cancelations.

Seven months ago they began a pledge campaign for a $680,000 indoor arena. Today, the steering committee is $40,000 from reaching its goal.

“We are very humbled by the generosity of our entire region,” Dan LaRock said.

“We have more than 60 donors to the campaign. They live all over the Upper Midwest — Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Montana.” 

Last fall, concrete footings were poured for the 80-by-200-foot building that includes the riding arena, five horse stalls, a conference room, offices, restrooms and a handicap-accessible viewing platform.

A new 60-by-100-foot outdoor arena is also planned on the six acres the LaRocks have devoted to the ranch’s expansion.

Marie works full time with Rock Ranch, and Dan, who works with Silverstone Group, Sioux Falls, does the ranch’s finances.

Seven other individuals serve on the Rock Ranch steering committee, which has fundraising help from 15 additional volunteers.

In October they kicked off the capital campaign with fundraising calls, grant writing and presentations to prospective donors.  

The campaign recently received a pledge of $125,000.

“We have actually received two total gifts at that level during the campaign,” Dan said.

Once the campaign is finished, the LaRocks plan to release a full list of the donors.


Programming set to begin in a month

The new facility will open this summer for the ranch’s three programs — Ride Rock Ranch Program for youth, the equine assisted psychology (EAP) program and Senior Saddles.

“We will be starting our summer programming in June this year,” Marie said. “Our summer schedule is nearly full for our Ride Rock Ranch Program, with just a few openings left in August.” 

The equine assisted psychology (EAP) program contracts with two mental health professionals with an additional equine specialist joining the program this summer.

The EAP uses the Eagala model of therapy, which has openings for use by local mental health providers and other seeking this service.

“We see opportunity for our counseling program to grow,” she said.

The ranch’s third and final program, Senior Saddles, has no scheduled sessions this spring.

It’s for adults 55 and older to participate in equine-related activities with a focus on senior groups from retirement communities, assisted living centers and nursing homes.

“Our Senior Saddles program is on hold until our nation can get through the COVID pandemic,” Marie said.

Plans are also in the works for fall and winter Ride Rock Ranch lessons to start in October by continuing a partnership through community education for the horseback riding lessons.

For individuals who own their own horses, the ranch is making open riding times available.

“Eventually we would like to offer clinics on several topics of equine training to the public,” she said. “We anticipate our growth in sessions and services to increase appropriately with our ability to provide services year-round.”


Donations roll in for operations

To operate a summer program for Rock Ranch, organizers need an operating budget of almost $40,000.

On #Giving Tuesday, an online fundraising event through Facebook, Rock Ranch set a goal of $5,000 and received almost $11,000 for horse care and other related expenses. 

“We also raise operational money to help provide scholarships for riders and those who need mental health support,” Dan said. “New equipment will include an accessible lift for persons with limited mobility. We will also need a new arena rake, and riding equipment for both the indoor and outdoor arenas.”

Last year the ranch’s eight horses were shown to 278 visitors and used in 122 sessions, a 144-percent growth in four years.

On average, one horse costs between $1,200 and $1,500 for feed and care each year.

“The budget will certainly grow as we move to a year-round operation,” Dan said.


Donations accepted at

Rock Ranch is a nonprofit charitable organization. All contributions are tax deductible. More information and how to donate is available at the ranch’s website,

Individuals and/or groups can sponsor a rider or horse as well as still contribute to the indoor arena capital campaign.

“We are humbled and thrilled that our broader communities linked arms with us to bring Rock Ranch arena to life so quickly,” Dan said.

“The project and the programs are so worth it for our region. Rock Ranch is excited to serve children, our senior population and people who need mental health support for years to come.” 


About Rock Ranch

Founded in 2016 by the LaRock Family, Rock Ranch provides opportunities for persons to improve themselves physically, cognitively, socially and psychologically while learning horsemanship in a Christ-filled setting. 

The ranch is located west of Hills. 

They are members of PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) and Eagala (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association).


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