William Shatner Backs Therapeutic Horse Riding Programs For Kids and Veterans

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Veteran Canadian actor William Shatner remains best known as Captain James Kirk from the famed TV series Star Trek. As Kirk, Shatner piloted the starship Enterprise through the galaxies, but here on terra firma he rides high on the saddle of his horses, which he has long put to charitable use.

Shatner  -- who, at age 80, still competes in reining and saddlebred shows throughout the year -- is a major supporter of Central Kentucky Ride For Hope (CKRH), an organization "dedicated to enriching the community by improving the quality of life and the health of children and adults with special physical, cognitive, emotional and social needs through therapeutic activities with the horse," it states on its web site.

This is one of the charities that benefits from The Hollywood Charity Horse Show, an annual event run by Shatner. Back in the late 1980s, Shatner attended a charity horse show in Los Angeles, and, upon learning it was set to cease operations, he took it over, renaming it The Hollywood Charity Horse Show. He selected a therapeutic riding program called Ahead With Horses as the first recipient, later adding other charities.

The event is jointly sponsored by priceline.com (Shatner has long been their very visible pitchman) and Wells Fargo bank.

"The Hollywood Charity Horse Show is a conduit to many other children's charities," Shatner tells samaritanmag.com. "We are now amplifying the object of the charity to include returning veterans. They have many of the same psychological and physical ills as the children who are receiving funds from us. Many of our charities are called riding therapeutic programs. They have done miracles for children, and we are in the process of doing miracles for returning veterans from the wars. That is now a very important aspect."

Veterans are assisted through The All Glory Project, which Shatner and his wife Elizabeth helped set up at the Lexington Central Kentucky Riding for Hope facility in 2010. Physically, veterans participating in the program see improvements in such areas as balance, strength, flexibility and posture. Emotionally, the interaction with horses helps improve communication, self-confidence and team building.

Shatner has long bred champion saddlebred horses, first in California and now at Lexington, Kentucky, on his 87-acre Belle Reve Farm. His deep affection for horses began early, as he wrote in his autobiography, Up Till Now. "I found myself enthralled by horses as a child," he wrote. "What could have caused that? I was a Jewish kid from the streets of Montreal... the word horse never entered my family's lexicon."

That love has not diminished, he tells samaritanmag.com. "Horses are beautiful, and if I can combine the love of horses with the love of charity and giving to less fortunate people, it is a miracle."

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.