CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN: Harmony Farms Help Handicapped Achieve Freedom
By Maria Sonnenberg, Space Coast Medicine // May 13, 2013
2012 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIANS
ABOVE VIDEO: The riders at Harmony Farms range in age from a four-year-old autistic boy to an 87-year-old lady suffering the ravages of stroke. Referred by physicians or therapists, they are coping with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
‘Horses Give Legs To Riders Who Can’t Move Their Legs’
Twice a year, on her birthday and at Christmas, Pam Rogan would ask for a horse.
The Brooklyn girl didn’t get her wish…until she moved to Brevard County and created Harmony Farms, a not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization that enhances the quality of life of disabled individuals through interaction with horses.
These days, Rogan has not just one, but rather 12 horses, all gentle creatures ready to help their handicapped riders achieve small victories.
Horses, those perfect creatures, are liberating beings, the spirit of freedom. For a wheelchair-bound person, they offer an intoxicating opportunity to finally be in control of their environment.
The riders at Harmony Farms range in age from a four-year-old autistic boy to an 87-year-old lady suffering the ravages of stroke. Referred by physicians or therapists, they are coping with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
They may not be able to walk or talk, but when they are atop Star, Sergeant Pepper, Emily, Sweet Pea or the other Harmony Farms horses, these riders can fly.
“Horses give legs to riders who can’t move their legs,” said Rogan.
“They make these individuals feel they can do anything. It is very touching to see the tears on the eyes of parents who’ve heard their handicapped child laugh for the first time when he is riding one of our horses.”
Fifty volunteers – from 13 to 75 years of age – help muck out the barns, care for the horses and assist instructors during the riding sessions. Without them, the Rockledge facility could not operate.
“We find that the horses are the initial motivators for the volunteers, but that quickly changes as they bond with the riders,” said Rogan. “The therapy happens on both sides of the fence.”
Helping make ends meet are donations from the community. Dr. Brad Newman of Newman Equine, for example, greatly discounts veterinary services, as does farrier Dennis Ingram. C&J Feed store and Happy Horse Feed and Western Wear supply horse feed and hay and donate delivery and many extras on a regular basis. Seminole Feed in Ocala donates a bag of feed a week.
Still somewhat of a best-kept secret, Harmony Farms helps 60 riders a week. More than 40 individuals are on a waiting list, simply because there are not enough horses to go around.
The Duda Ranch, which donates the use of the barn and nine acres on Stadium Parkway for the riding facility, is working with Harmony Farms to find them a larger home. Plans are to build a 20-stall barn and covered arena and add acreage to whittle down the waiting list with more horses.
The Number One volunteers, the horses themselves, have their own histories. All donated, they come to Harmony Farms from varied backgrounds.
Pepsi was a former barrel racer who, at 29, still loves to play, yet is soft and sweet whenever a handicapped rider is nearby. At only 12 hands, Star the pony may be short, but she does a big job as Harmony Farms’ ambassador horse at schools, golf tournaments and even at an art gallery. Gentle, pretty Emily once belonged to a very special lady whose dying wish was for the horse to help people at Harmony Farms. Soda Pop was a show horse, Sgt. Pepper did dressage and Pocoso was once a professional polo pony.
Their former lives were very different, but now they share a common bond: to help disabled riders and to do it cheerfully and with grace.
“Horses don’t judge,” said Rogan. “They don’t ask questions. They’re amazing animals.”
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HARMONY FARMS
The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world.
This year, more than 30 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, with the festivities beginning at 6 p.m.
“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.
“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as SpaceCoastDaily.com,” said Dr. Palermo.
This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, MPAC ACO, Community Credit Union, Clear Choice Health Care, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine, CentralFloridaMedicine.com and SpaceCoastDaily.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the 2013 Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-615-8111 or e-mail SpaceCoastMedicine@gmail.com.