History and Facility Information
Special Equestrians, Inc. is a United Way Partner Agency which provides equine assisted activities and therapies to children and adults with disabilities. Special Equestrians is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt public charity that is solely supported by contributions from individuals, corporations, civic organizations, private grants, and service fees. One hundred (100%) of all contributions goes directly to the support of the program. As a volunteer-run self-administrative organization, Special Equestrians could not exist without volunteers and the support of the community.
Established in 1987 with borrowed horses, Special Equestrians serves children and adults with disabilities from Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties in Southwest Florida. Special Equestrians’ facility, purchased in 2007, is located at 5121 Staley Road in Fort Myers, Florida. The 14.5 acre farm is a welcoming and versatile home for Special Equestrians with a twelve stall barn for our horses, a hay and equipment barn, a riding arena, caretaker quarters and office space.
In the fall of 2007, a 100’ x 200’ Metal Cover was added to the riding arena area, to provide a safer and more comfortable environment for our participants, volunteers, instructors, and horses. This roof structure provides a safe area to congregate, out of the heat and rain. Its concrete walkways provide a safe traverse through the viewing area and on to the mounting ramp.
In 2009, a sensory integration trail was built, as a partnership project with Florida Gulf Coast University Students, on the Special Equestrians property. While riding on the Sensory Integration Trail, our participants experience 20 different activity and obstacle stations. The wooded setting provides a unique and exciting addition to the program classes offered at Special Equestrians.
The center supports 13 horses and serves more than 95 participants each week. Participants range in age from four years of age to 80 plus years. Some of the disabilities we serve include: Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down syndrome, Head Trauma, Stroke, Developmental Delay, Multiple Sclerosis, Seizure Disorder, Hearing Impairment, ADHD, Visual Impairment, Asthma, Loss of Limbs, and Impaired Communication.
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Special Equestrians achieved Premier Accredited Center status through PATH, Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) in 2003. Premier Accreditation requires on an on-site evaluation of policies and procedures covering more than 115 standards set forth by PATH, Intl. The accreditation process produces an organization that is not only extremely safe, but very professional. Special Equestrians is better able to serve our community because of our investment in the accreditation process.
Premier Accredited Center status with PATH, Intl. has been successfully maintained by Special Equestrians since 2003. Reaccreditation, including a site visit by PATH, Intl., is required at 5-year intervals.
The therapeutic riding and driving classes are divided into six-week sessions. Thirty minutes of therapeutic instruction is given to each participant per week, or per lesson. The program is year-round (eight consecutive sessions) with the exception of the month of August. A fee of ninety dollars ($90.00) for a six-week session is charged per participant. This low fee only covers about 20% of the cost to run our programs. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fee. Volunteer work, in exchange for scholarships given, is highly recommended. Medical and liability insurance coverage for riders, volunteers, board of directors and the program site is obtained through PATH, Intl. and the Markel Insurance Company.
Our Mission Statement
The mission of Special Equestrians, Inc. is to enhance physical, emotional, and cognitive growth for individuals with disabilities through equine assisted activities and therapies.
The organization serves people referred to Special Equestrians by doctors, therapists and teachers. The participant application is on this website on the Classes Page. There is a waiting list to ride in the program, although those potential riders who have flexible schedules will be able to ride sooner.