About Special Equestrians

History and Facility Information

Special Equestrians, Inc. is a United Way Partner Agency which provides therapeutic horseback riding and equine assisted activities to children and adults with disabilities. Special Equestrians is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt public charity that is solely supported by contributions from individuals, corporations, civic organizations, private grants, and service fees. One hundred (100%) of all contributions goes directly to the support of the program. As a volunteer-run self-administrative organization, Special Equestrians could not exist without volunteers and the support of the community.

Established in 1987 with borrowed horses, Special Equestrians serves children and adults with disabilities from Lee, Charlotte,  Hendry and Glades Counties in Southwest Florida.  Special Equestrians' facility, purchased in 2007, is located at 5121 Staley Road in Fort Myers, Florida. The 14.5 acre farm is a welcoming and versatile home for Special Equestrians with a twelve stall barn for our horses, a hay and equipment barn, a riding arena, caretaker quarters and office space.

In the fall of 2007, a 100’ x 200’ Metal Cover was added to the riding arena area, to provide a safer and more comfortable environment for our participants, volunteers, instructors, and horses. This roof structure provides a safe area to congregate, out of the heat and rain. Its concrete walkways provide a safe traverse through the viewing area and on to the mounting ramp.

In 2009, a sensory integration trail was built, as a partnership project with Florida Gulf Coast University Students, on the Special Equestrians property. While riding on the Sensory Integration Trail, our participants experience 20 different activity and obstacle stations.  The wooded setting provides a unique and exciting addition to the program classes offered at Special Equestrians.

Special Equestrians achieved Premier Accredited Center status through PATH, Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) in 2003.  Premier Accreditation requires on an on-site evaluation of policies and procedures covering more than 100 standards set forth by PATH, Intl. The accreditation process produces an organization that is not only extremely safe, but very professional. Special Equestrians is better able to serve our community because of our investment in the accreditation process.

Every five years since 2003, Special Equestrians has gone through a successful re-accreditation with a PATH, Intl. site visit, which is required every five years, in order to retain the status of Premier Accredited Center.

The center supports 13 horses and serves more than 95 participants each week. Participants range in age from four years of age to 75 plus years. Some of the disabilities we serve include: Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down syndrome, Head Trauma, Stroke, Developmental Delay, Multiple Sclerosis, Seizure Disorder, Hearing Impairment, ADHD, Visual Impairment, Asthma, Loss of Limbs, and Impaired Communication.

The therapeutic riding and driving classes are divided into six week sessions. Thirty minutes of therapeutic instruction is given to each participant per week, or per lesson. The program is year round (eight consecutive sessions) with the exception of the month of August. A fee of ninety dollars ($90.00) for a six-week session is charged per participant. This low fee only covers about 25% of the cost to run our programs. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fee. Volunteer work, in exchange for scholarships given, is highly recommended. Medical and liability insurance coverage for riders, volunteers, board of directors and the program site is obtained through PATH, Intl. and the Markel Insurance Company.

The mission of Special Equestrians, Inc. is to enhance physical, emotional, and cognitive growth for individuals with disabilities through equine assisted activities and therapies.

Special Equestrians, Inc.

P.O. Box 61528Fort Myers, Fl. 33906-1528

Facility location:

5121 Staley Road, Fort Myers, FL 33905

Our Mission Statement



Bob Murray, President

Erin Houck-Toll, Vice President

Sarah Lacy, Secretary

Freda Jones, Co-Treasurer

Brenda Morrow, Co-Treasurer

Jan Fifer, Executive Director


Priscilla Kovalsky

Sherry Gilbert

Adele E. Smith

Terra Anderson

Ashlynn Super


Grant Alley

Bus and Nifty Hamilton
Mindy La Croix

Christi Pritchett
Raymond Rodrigues
Angela Schivinski

Dr. Dennis Van Roekel
April Ward

Special Equestrians, Inc.    Board Of Directors

n Dee Hollander
Our head Instructor 
Dee Hollander Dee has been involved with Special Equestrians since its beginning in 1987. We are delighted to have her as our head riding instructor. She is an accomplished horseperson and rider herself, competing in the past in Saddle Seat competitions in Illinois. Dee has contributed her time to all aspects of our program and, in fact, was one of the founders of Special Equestrians. She leads our evaluation team in accepting new students when they apply to the program. Dee places students in classes with other students according to their abilities and needs. Dee is an active trail rider with her horse, Slick, a Spotted Saddle Horse. They have also competed together in ACTHA competitions and local Extreme Equine Horse Shows. n
n Justin Parchem
Instructor Justin Parchem Justin Parchem is one of our Path, Intl. certified instructors. Justin wears many hats at Special Equestrians, including Spirit Riders Drill Team Coach, a member of the Special Equestrian stable committee, and our Equine Co-Manager. Justin is a Wisconsin native who moved to Florida in late 2000. Working the golf business, he began his journey with horses in Tampa, helping at a hunter jumper barn. After moving to Fort Myers area, he became a golf professional and invested as a partner in the ownership of three thoroughbred race horses in Miami. Soon Justin began volunteering for a John Lyons Certified Instructor to learn even more about training and riding horses. Since Special Equestrians came into his life in 2009, golf and horse racing have been put on hold to dedicate more time to a career in therapeutic riding instruction and his newly founded farrier business. n
n Amy Oxendine
Instructor Amy Oxendine Amy Oxendine is one of our Saturday instructors for Special Equestrians (SE). She joined our team here at SE back in 2009 as a volunteer. It became immediately clear that Amy was a very valuable asset to SE and we encouraged her to begin the process of instructor certification. She is a very intelligent, organized, and hardworking individual, so it is no surprise she became a PATH, Intl. certified instructor in 2010. Owning horses since she was very young, Amy possesses the knowledge and riding skill necessary for the instruction and further advancement of our riders. Amy is active in a local competitive drill team, Just Horsin' Around Drill Team. She is also an avid trail rider and enjoys riding all over the state with friends and family sharing her love of horses and the environment. Amy works as a marketing coordinator for Johnson Engineering and also has a miniature horse, Guinness, who has volunteered his time as well, to be a part of our new Outreach Team. n

Special Equestrians' trained volunteers are the backbone of our therapeutic riding program. If you are comfortable around horses, we have many ways for you to contribute. You can groom and tack up the horses, be a sidewalker, lead the horses, or help maintain the stable area. We also have office work, fund-raising, and special events for those volunteers who do not want to work directly with the horses. Whatever direction you choose will be unique and rewarding. Join our team and share the joy!

You will receive orientation and training to explain the safety and procedural rules of the program. You will need to fill out an application form and the emergency medical treatment form before you begin your volunteer work or your volunteer training. If you would like to fill out the forms before you arrive for orientation and training, click the links below to print out the volunteer forms and the release forms. You may also read the volunteer handbook at this time.

Once you have completed the volunteer application and read the volunteer handbook, call our office and leave a message for our volunteer coordinator, Priscilla Kovalsky.  She will return your call and schedule your volunteer training, which will take place at Special Equestrians. If you need directions to our facility, click this link:

Directions Volunteer Application Packet Volunteer Handbook

Volunteers are not paid not because they are worthless but because they are priceless.

Please take a minute to watch a short introduction to Special Equestrians' and our facility...

Please give us a call or send us an email if you have any questions.

FOLLOW US On Twitter :

JOIN Our FREE Mailing List :

Special Equestrians is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt local charity supported solely by individual donations and service fees donated by riders.



FED. ID # 65-0250071



© 2018 Special Equestrians, Inc. •  All Rights Reserved  •  Website by Kim @ www.kimberlycarmell.com

Follow spequestrians on Twitter
Join Our Mailing List