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A little horse in Western New York may win a steeplechase for a place with a legendary name, Rivendell.

Rivendell, fans of "The Lord of the Rings" will remember, is the refuge of the elves.

And Rivendell, on 20 acres in South Wales, is also a place of help, comfort and dealing with difficulty.

The all-volunteer and not-for-profit Rivendell ReCreation Center has been dedicated to horseback riding, carriage-driving programs and farm-recreation for mentally, emotionally and physically challenged children and adults for the past two decades.

It is seeking donations of 5-to-12-inch model horse statuettes -- about elf size -- to be decorated by area artists in a miniature version of "Herd About Buffalo" -- horse-homage to the wildly successful earlier version with buffaloes.

"As the horses are collected, they'll be numbered and photographed," said Trish Dudek, who operates Rivendell. "Then they'll be dispersed to participating artists. Decorations are limited only by the artist's imagination."

The creations will be displayed online before being auctioned Nov. 4 at Samuel's Grande Manor in Clarence. Deadline for delivery of entries is Sept. 30.

"Horsin' Around Rivendell" is open to three categories of artists: novice, amateur and professional, with entries of a half-dozen different "breeds" of horses. They include "equine fantasies," mythological creations such as unicorns, flying horses, dream horses; and "night mares." Also, literary horses -- famous horses from the printed page or the silver screen.

Just like a real horse show, ribbons will be awarded to winners.

At the local Rivendell, there's been almost as much magic performed as in "The Lord of the Rings."

People who have been told they'll never walk again have proved doctors wrong after horseback therapy.

"Our volunteers are well-trained," Dudek points out.

It may take up to a year to train the horses for their special job.

Dudek explains the "horse sense" this way -- when you're on a horse, the "body and mind relax and cooperate with each other -- it brings pleasure into one's life."

Horse statue donations are collected at State of the Art, 1781 Hertel Ave. If artists don't have their own toy horses, one can be picked up at State of the Art. Project coordinator Mar Penner Griswold can be reached 832-3900 or e-mailed at

Toy horses will also be accepted at Rivendell, 12469 Warner Hill Road, South Wales, or Windy Pines, 2922 Two Rod Road in East Aurora.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail

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