Equine Healing

Stirrups ‘n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center uses equine therapy in community outreach programs to improve the quality of life for those with physical, mental and emotional challenges.

After being involved in therapeutic riding for more than three decades, Betty Gray continues to see new avenues for the healing power of the horse.

In 1983, Gray joined Peg Wallace to create Marion Therapeutic Riding Association. When she wrapped up a 10-year stint as MTRA executive director (1997-2006), Gray established Stirrups ‘n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center. Based on Gray and her husband Wayne’s 30-acre Citra farm, Stirrups ‘n Strides opened in January 2007. The 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. PATH International promotes equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs, including children, adults, veterans and active-duty military personnel.

“We have children with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other mental and physical challenges,” says Gray. “The adults in our program have had strokes, have multiple sclerosis or maybe are doing rehabilitation after a car accident. Regardless of why someone comes to us, the horses provide wonderful therapy.”

Through PATH’s Equine Services for Heroes, Stirrups ‘n Strides is now also working with Marion County Veterans Helping Veterans and The Vines Hospital’s in-patient and residential military program. Stirrups ‘n Strides is also providing equine therapy services to Arnette House and Phoenix House Citrus Center.

“With the vets, they are usually dealing with PTSD issues,” says Gray. “They get to pick out a horse to bond with through caring for and riding it. It’s always amazing to see the change they go through during the program.”

Gray sees similar transformations with children who come from Arnette House and adults dealing with drug and addiction from Phoenix House.

“There are psychological benefits from just being around and working with the horses. They teach you to care, to relax, to respect and to trust. But having been involved with equine therapy for 30 years, the real healing happens when a person gets up on a horse,” says Gray. “I had a teenager with an attitude from Arnette House who didn’t want to get on a horse. But when she finally did, she looked at me and said, ‘This is the best day that I’ve had in a long time’.”

Learn more:

Jammin’ at Jumbolair Extravaganza & Auction, presented by Wells Fargo
Annual Charity Fundraiser for Stirrups’n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center
Saturday, Dec. 2, 5-10-pm
Tickets: $75 per person, VIP table: $800

To purchase tickets or volunteer, stirrupsnstrides.com or contact Betty Gray at (352) 427-3569 or grayhitime@windstream.net

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