Grace Rides growing in leaps and bounds

May 25, 2017

A new barn is in the works at Grace Rides.

After nearly two years of searching for the right property, and nearly two more of planning and permits, Grace Rides finally has its building permit approval and has begun site work to build a new barn facility for its expanding equine-assisted therapies and activities and equine-assisted learning programs in DeFuniak Springs.

Soon, more kids with challenges throughout the panhandle can be served, plus programs can be added to serve veterans and military, to provide work-study (barn management and organic gardening) for cognitively challenged adults, plus educational field trips for school groups and clubs, and more.

Sherry Hall is on a mission to help special people with unique challenges. As director of Grace Rides, an equine-assisted therapy facility in DeFuniak Springs, she makes that happen in a big way.

Grace Rides, a non-profit faith based organization formed in 2009. The facility provides safe and effective equine therapy and horsemanship training for students of all ages with emotional, physical, cognitive and developmental challenges.

Lana Van Valen suits up for a ride at Grace Rides. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The path to Grace Rides was a natural one for Hall who grew up on a farm in Marianna. Her mother was a special education teacher, and Hall earned a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and clinical psychology.

Hall spent the first year creating a safe environment for the clients of Grace Rides. Attention to detail is evident at the facility. Each student is surrounded by group of volunteers along with instructors for every session.

Each therapy is custom designed to accommodate individual needs. The student is custom fitted with tack, helmet and boots sized just right. Specialized saddle attachments are available for unique physical challenges. Currently Grace has 11 horses of various sizes and breeds making the pairing with students suitable.

Therapy horse Cochise enjoys getting a tickle from a volunteer. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

How does this type of fun qualify as therapy? The rhythmic nature of the horse’s gait and the animal’s body heat provide a natural vehicle for physical therapy, loosening tight muscles, helping to strengthen the rider’s muscle tone and encouraging digestion and circulation. Other physical benefits can include improvements in balance, posture, coordination, reflexes, fine and gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. The repetition of carefully selected therapeutic activities allows the rider to concentrate on their basic skills and then add new more challenging activities as the rider develops.

“The riders bond quickly with the horses as they groom, feed, and ride. They develop responsibility, patience and compassion as they care for the horses. The excitement of riding brings new experiences and a sense of well being,” Hall said.

Parents and siblings of students have the opportunity to engage in the horse riding experience as well with special days geared just for siblings.

Grace Rides relies totally on contributions to support its efforts and is a member of PATH, Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International.

To learn more about Grace Rides go to: