The Healing Power of Horses
We visited the Florida Equestrian Foundation to learn more about the healing power of horses.
How did your vision begin? What inspired you to start Florida Equestrian Foundation?
Our program really sort of evolved from the love of horses and how naturally therapeutic they are. We have been teaching riding lessons for six years. The actual counseling sessions with horses began in November of 2012. There has been great interest in therapy with the horses, and it has been in the works since 2009.
How have you seen your program grow?
We began with four horses, and have since added six more to the program. Some have been donated for our cause. Time spent with horses truly is addicting. People will come out to ride, then find they need their “horse fix” again. Often times, they will bring friends. What began as lessons have grown into therapy working with seniors with depression, females who have been sexually abused, children with autism, and postwar veterans.
What began your love of horses and how did you come to be a trainer?
My daughter, Marci, was interested in horses from very early on. We lived on the beach and were not a horse family, but Marci was desperate for a horse. We told her if she got into the IB Program in school, she could have a horse, and we just grew from there. We uprooted our beach lives and moved west, and here we are. Now Marci is one of my trainers.
Share with us one of your most memorial experiences at the barn?
One experience that immediately comes to mind is helping a seven-year-old girl overcome some of her anxiety. She had a real fear of horses. One day while riding, a palm frond spooked the horse she was on; it threw her off, but she got right up and said, “Miss Cindy, put me back on. Put me back on the horse.” That was really amazing to see her determination and success conquering the fear.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I would have to say when people fall in love with the horses and they just don’t want to leave. When people are here to ride and they realize the magnitude of the experience and can’t tear themselves away. It’s wonderful when even the mentors working with the kids are reluctant to leave the barn.
What is the biggest challenge of your job?
The time and financial commitment are huge. There really just are not enough hours in a day. If not for my wonderful volunteers, this program would not happen.
What does a normal day look like for you?
The horses eat around 8:00 am every morning. Depending on the day, we may have several groups in and out all day long. We have group therapy sessions, veterans groups, senior groups, private lessons, and private therapy sessions by appointment. We are also working on the details to host retreats on property in the near future.
In your experience, what is it that is so healing about horses? What do we stand to learn from them?
Horses teach us so much. They are confidence-builders by way of teaching us strength and patience. The horses reflect what we are feeling. If you come here anxious or angry, the horses pick up on that and mirror what is happening in a session. They have the ability to draw out both confidence and emotions in people because they are so forgiving and accepting.
Of all the services you offer in your barn, which do you enjoy the most?
Oh, that is such a difficult question. I love it all. I guess the first thing that comes to mind is when the seniors have their light bulb moments and make a breakthrough or connection. I also really love seeing the kids overcome, as well.
How can we learn more about your program and volunteering or sponsoring?
Our event page online is a good resource. We have several exciting events coming up. http://www.floridaequestrianfoundation.org/#!events/c1gvk The weekend of March 16-17 is going to be a busy one with our horses in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Ocean Drive. The Plein Air Art Derby will be going on all weekend. Sunday will wrap up the event with a silent auction at Costa De Este in which 40% of the proceeds generated from art sales will be donated to Florida Equestrian Foundation. We are also really excited about “The 25K Ride to Remember”. This is a salute to our military March 23rd.
What are 5 things you cannot live without?
I cannot go very long without riding. I need my horses around me. I would also say exercise, chocolate, and quiet time.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Watching Kathie Lee and Hoda.
What superpower would you like to have and why?
I would really like the confidence to go with my intuition and truly listen to it.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
The Evolution of Self. I have been a lot of things, and this isn’t the last stop.
Photographer Elaine Ryan
Originally Published on Vero Home Life & Design