Equine Progressive

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Orlando vs. Freedom Ride

with 2 comments

A horse that makes a difference.

When the city government starts picking on kids with special needs, you know the world’s gone off the deep end. In Orlando, which is of course the arbiter of all things progressive, a highly popular and centrally located therapeutic riding center – and the last vestiges of a historical equestrian park – are about to be wiped off the map. By a city desperate to cut costs, another sign of our desperate economy? No, actually, by a city that sometime in the future maybe might want to use the space for soccer fields.

Fortunately, the typical apathy of Central Floridians has not extended to allowing the city of Orlando to get away with this act. And while Mayor Buddy Dyer managed to get in some pot-shots at the organization while doing so, he did agree that they don’t necessarily maybe possibly have to go right the instant their current lease expired.

Freedom Ride struck back by welcoming the community to an open house over the weekend, showing off their beautiful facility, with its white painted fences, reminiscent of the old days when they weren’t occupants of the last training barn standing in the sprawling Ben White Raceway, once the southern hub of Standardbred training. More than 100 people each month are assisted here by fourteen horses and about one hundred volunteers. With its central location just a few miles off the main artery of Central Florida, I-4, participants from all over the area can easily reach the riding center, unlike many rural farms.

During the open house, business was proceeding as usual. Children were purposefully striding about in field boots, carrying saddles and bridles, checking the white board in the tack room for horse assignments. An older woman in an electric wheelchair motored about, patting the horses that came to their stall doors. Militant locals in breeches and blue jeans showed up to rail against the city politics and pledge their support and even tracts of land outside town that could be used for a new program. Parents showed up to volunteer or even to sign up their children for the program, which assists people with a multitude of special needs, including autism, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.

Artwork from the heart.

What truly made Freedom Ride stand out from a typical lesson barn, though, was the artwork. Arts and crafts is always an integral part of hippotherapy, and on display were the drawings and collages that children had made describing what the horses meant for them. “They help me come out of my shell” in a thought bubble above a smiling little girl on horseback, purposefully colored in crayon. “Titan” as a word used in a collage of how horses made a boy feel. With the devastating simplicity that children demonstrate on a regular basis, the case for Freedom Ride’s continued presence in Orlando should have been easily made.

All good causes have an online petition. You can find Freedom Ride’s here.


Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm

2 Responses

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  1. First!

    great post, great way to get the word out. Best of luck!

    sigh, the blogs won’t be t’same wit’out ye.


    March 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    • I can still, you know… click on them and stuff…

      Natalie Keller Reinert

      March 2, 2010 at 10:59 pm

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