Equestrian Special Olympics Helps Heal At-Risk Lives

By  //  March 18, 2013

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Therapeutic Riding Program Provides Hope

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – At Grace Equine Rescue and Therapy for Humans, a welcoming atmosphere can be felt the moment you enter the grounds.

A participant rides into the ring accompanied by G.E.R.T.H. volunteers at the Third annual Equestrian Special Olympics on March 15 in Cocoa. (Image by Julia Rose Groom)

On March 16, the G.E.R.T. H. organization hosted the Third annual Equestrian Special Olympics on James Road in Cocoa.

The event began punctually with participants and volunteers paying the uttermost respect to the disciplines of the sport.

Contestants are first graded on horsemanship, also known as “Equitation” and then on how well they move through the obstacles.

“They’re judged on how well they’re able to do three berths, to stop and back up, how well they listen to the judge and their overall appearance,” said Lexi Applegate. “”Then on the trail, points are given for how well they’re able to complete each obstacle.”

Lexi is the daughter of Linnea Applegate, G.E.R.T.H.’s president and founder.

Accompanied by a team of dedicated volunteers who ensured their safety, the Special Olympics participants radiated confidence during the competition.

The judges are experienced advocates of the sport and provide constructive criticism and positive reinforcement.

A Special Olympian is ready to enter the ring for horsemanship competition on March 15 in Cocoa. (Image by Julia Rose Groom)

At the awards ceremony, a feeling of mutual respect and appreciation was abundant.

“I’ve seen so many people here who have benefited.  There’s a tremendous amount of caring and the horses seem to understand that.  It’s amazing how the horses react to the clients here. It’s absolutely amazing.” says Richie, a local retiree who has been volunteering, together with his wife Marie, since the organization was founded four years ago.

G.E.R.T.H. offers faith-based, therapeutic riding programs in a healthy environment that encourages emotional growth and build trust.

The programs are one-on-one or held in small groups which help to give and restore confidence. They welcome women in distress, those with phobias, the underprivileged, those with special needs or any who have suffered from abuse and find themselves in need of loving guidance and support. Children of every age are also welcomed.

The programs are one-on-one or held in small groups which help to give and restore confidence. They welcome women in distress, those with phobias, the underprivileged, those with special needs or any who have suffered from abuse and find themselves in need of loving guidance and support.

Children of every age are also welcomed.

“I was an at-risk teen and lived in abusive home.  At the time, I had a horse that wasn’t mine that I was allowed to ride and I dare say that horse saved my life,” said Linnea Applegate.

The organization is always in need of more support, no matter how humble.

New volunteers are welcomed and every effort is appreciated.  Neglected horses that have been rehabilitated also are available for adoption.

At G.E.R.T.H., a nurturing and healing environment has been established where people can find a safe haven and themselves therein.

Visit  GraceRescue.org to find out about future fundraisers and how you can get involved.


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