Ever since mother and daughter duo Marianne and Rebecca Davenport founded Hope Therapy in Middleburg, Florida 15 years ago, they have been working tirelessly to improve the lives of children and adults with special needs by using equine-assisted activities and therapy. This spring, the Davenports turned to the nearby Jacksonville Equestrian Center for help with preparing their riders for the Florida State Special Olympics Equestrian Championships.
“Before going to the Special Olympics, we wanted to get the riders and horses familiar with a big facility like the one we would be going to for the competition,” said Rebecca Davenport, the Occupational Therapist and Program Director at Hope Therapy. “At the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, we were able to set up a trail course and expose them to the different environments and things they would see. Being able to practice with a covered arena was also helpful. The Jacksonville Equestrian Center is a beautiful facility.”
The Special Olympics provides sports training and competition opportunities to athletes with intellectual disabilities around the world. When it came time for Hope Therapy riders to compete in the Florida State Special Olympics Equestrian Championships, their training paid off well.
“Our riders collectively earned a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal. We were really excited,” said Davenport. “The whole weekend was wonderful, but the best part was seeing the smiles on the faces of the riders when they held up their medals! They were so excited, just grinning from ear to ear. It was great seeing how happy and proud of themselves they were.”
Hope Therapy is a leading hippotherapy program in Northeast Florida, and is the area’s only Premier Accredited Center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). The organization is committed to providing high quality services and excellence in programming, and plans to use the facilities at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center again in the future to provide children and adults with therapeutic riding experiences. Hope Therapy also provides several programs for active duty, disabled, and retired service men and women.
Hippotherapy uses horses as therapy treatment for people with special care needs. The movement of the horse encourages muscle action and can improve balance. Additionally, positive psychological, social, emotional, and behavioral effects can be seen in people who use hippotherapy.
The Jacksonville Equestrian Center was thrilled to host Hope Therapy students and instructors as they prepared for the Florida State Special Olympics. The Jacksonville Equestrian Center is home to a state-of-the-art, 123,000 square foot indoor coliseum, multiple outdoor arenas, barns with over 400 stalls, and trails for equestrians to enjoy. The 80-acre facility is also part of a recreational park that features an Olympic size indoor pool, an 18-hole golf course, and regulation softball fields.
Located just off of I-95 in Jacksonville, Florida, the Jacksonville Equestrian Center hosts recreational, sporting, and community events year round. For more information about the facility, visit www.jaxequestriancenter.com or call Penny Gorton at 904-255-4227. For more information about Hope Therapy, please visit www.hopetherapy.org.
Photos: Hope Therapy used the Jacksonville Equestrian Center to help prepare riders for the Florida State Special Olympics Equestrian Championships (Photos courtesy of Rebecca Davenport)