By Pamela Price
One of the most respected names in desert philanthropy is Lori Sarner, and it’s not just because she is as well known in London as she is in Palm Springs. In her role as founder, president and instructor of the Pegasus Riding Academy for the Handicapped in Palm Desert and of the Hyde Park Riding Club in London, she has made a difference in the lives of special needs children and their families.
At both facilities, she has developed a program catering to all ages and disabilities and “utilizing full-body range-of-motion exercise on horseback.” That’s impressive for a Jewish woman who calls Minnesota home. Over the years, Sarner has touched the lives so many because of that unwavering commitment to and passion for special needs individuals.
It all started in 1984, when Sarner began reaching out to the severely multiple handicapped, providing buses to transport these riders to the Academy, which is tucked away in a peaceful corner of the desert, for therapeutic horseback riding, guidance and instruction. Beneficiaries of Sarner’s kindness now arrive at the Academy from the Braille Institute, Angel View Crippled Children’s Foundation, the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center and ACT for MS, among other desert organizations.
Today, the Pegasus Riding Academy has 12 horses, 120 volunteers and 175 active riders. Teaching special needs children how to ride a horse might seem like a challenge, but under Sarner’s tutelage, this remarkable bonding between rider and horse has changed the lives of hundreds of children and their families. It’s made Pegasus Riding Academy a household name in the desert. (She continues to share her kindness during the summer, when she takes up residence in London to do similar work at the Hyde Park Riding Club.)
Each year, hundreds of supporters of Sarner’s work come together for the popular Pegasus Riders Luncheon to raise funds. Last year, more than 500 guests residing in the Coachella Valley gathered at the 17th annual luncheon, held Dec. 18 at the Renaissance Esmeralda.
This year, Sarner will be honored Nov. 23 at the Stroke Recovery 33rd Annual Wonderland Ball, where she will be presented with the Outstanding Community Supporter Award. No doubt she will be commended for her work as a unique ambassador and advocate for special needs individuals and a remarkable woman who helps riders to “soar above their limitations.”