Yays and ‘neighs’ at Special Equestrians’ sizzling shindig


Supporters of Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast enjoyed another mouthwatering Argentine Asado Experience recently, sponsored by Ocean Grill owner Charley Replogle.
Guests watched from along the fence surrounding the current SETC facility’s arena, as Cesar Rodriguez and other members and friends of the Ocean Grill Polo Team heated things up by building up and continually adding to an impressive bonfire.

They then carefully shoveled the hot coals underneath a line of grills, where a variety of ribs and steaks, sausage, chicken, corn on the cob, zucchini and peppers were slow roasted to perfection.

While they waited, people milled about the barn, bidding on auction items and plucking cards from a giving tree to donate to the care and feeding of the equine therapists. Squeeze, a particularly outgoing horse with big brown eyes, was a huge hit, bopping with the music and thoroughly licking every hand that was offered.

Darlene Dennis, a longtime SETC instructor and a cancer survivor, spoke about the eight-week Ride Beyond Diagnosis program she created. Now in its fifth year, the program is open to survivors of all women’s cancers in partnership with Friends After Diagnosis.

“Our mission is to give our riders a program that brings positive feelings into their lives by connecting with our horses and volunteers, while sharing our experiences throughout the journey together,” said Dennis.

Attendees also watched riding demonstrations by SETC students Lindsay Hires and Chayse Barsi, whose wide grins revealed the pure joy of being astride their equine therapists.

“We consider ourselves an alternative learning environment,” said Chrissie Clark, who provided commentary on what the students and instructors were doing. “We teach more than just horseback riding; this isn’t just a regular riding lesson. Some of the skills that we help our students with are problem solving in a present environment. When you’re on a horse you don’t say ‘later on’ or ‘tomorrow’; it’s right now and right here.”

She explained that the program also helps students develop social and life skills, how to develop friendships, communication, relationships and leadership, noting that students are empowered in a way that they don’t often find in their everyday lives. Additionally, riding strengthens core muscles and improves posture, balance and confidence.

Special Equestrians is embarking on a $1 million Capital Campaign to build a permanent, handicap-accessible, covered equestrian facility. Doing so would enable them to expand their therapeutic riding programs to veterans, individuals with mental health issues and other support groups.

“We’ve been given 24 acres of land in Fellsmere, but there’s still some paperwork with the county that needs to be done. We’re very excited about moving our operation to Fellsmere,” said SETC board president Diane Parentela.

“Our dream is to build a premier facility; we want to do it right,” she added. “We are PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) certified and we want to be a premier PATH center. We’re on the cusp of growing really big, so it’s a really exciting time for us.”

Upcoming fundraisers include a March 27 Clay shoot at Vero Beach Clay Shooting Sports and a May 22 Charity Golf Tournament at Gator Trace Golf Club.

For more information, visit specialequestrianstreasurecoast.org.

Photos provided

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