Photo: Kaila Jones A group of diners enjoyed one of the best dinners in Vero Beach recently – not at one of our wonderful restaurants, but rather at tables set up inside the Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast riding arena. The Argentine Asado Experience was sponsored by Ocean Grill owner Charley Replogle and overseen by Cesar Rodriguez, Replogle’s longtime polo manager and farrier for the gentle Special Equestrian therapy horses.
Attendees watched as Rodriguez and other Ocean Grill Polo Team members – Gaston Rodriguez, Juan Ramos and Pedro Enriquez – built up an impressive bonfire at one end of the arena, carefully transferring hot coals bit by bit underneath a line of grills, before slowly cooking a mouthwatering variety of ribs, chorizos, filet mignon and other steak cuts, chicken (finished with grilled lemons), corn on the cob, zucchini and sliced pineapple.
“Special Equestrians means a lot to me,” said Replogle. “We do an asado at least once a year; I did it at my barn about a month ago. We’re actually pretty professional about it now; these guys have been doing it for maybe 20 years. This is truly a traditional asado; if you go to Argentina, this is the way it happens. It’s a very slow-roasting process and it’s very hot.”
Meanwhile, guests milled about the barn, listened to music by guitarist David Goodman and visited with the sweet horses SETC uses to provide equine-assisted therapy and activities to individuals with special needs, to cancer patients through Ride Beyond Diagnosis and to Dodgertown Elementary School students.
Patty Brown said she was impressed with the organization’s development since she founded the nonprofit in 1992. Brown ran the program for five years out of rented space on 45th Street.
“My son Patrick was in need of something to do that would be extracurricular and there was nothing in Indian River County for people with special needs,” said Brown.
SETC currently rents a barn on a beautiful piece of property on 74th Avenue, and has embarked on a $1 million Capital Campaign to secure 20 acres of land where they wish to build a permanent, handicap-accessible, covered equestrian facility.
The expansion would enable SETC, a member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, to offer equine therapy to veterans, individuals with mental health issues and other support groups.
Attendees also watched a riding demonstration by Lindsay Hires, a 10-year SETC student, whose joy was evident as she showed off her skills astride Scotchie. The retired 22 year-old Western show horse was led by Cassie Ford, with spotter Michelle Penly. Karen Johnson, SETC executive director, narrated the demonstration, explaining as instructor Beth Boudreau coached Lindsay in a variety of tasks.
“The movements of the horse stimulate the core muscles of our students,” said Johnson, noting that they gain strength, their posture improves and they learn how to communicate with the horse verbally and nonverbally. “All the things that they learn and practice on horseback will transfer into their home lives and their jobs later on. Plus, they’re having fun.”
For more information, visit specialequestrianstreasurecoast.org.