Therapeutic Riding and driving classes are offered at our facility at 5121 Staley Road in Fort Myers, Florida. Therapeutic riding classes are offered four days a week. The class days are: Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and Wednesday and Saturday morning. Therapeutic driving classes are taught from late fall to spring on Tuesday afternoons. The sessions last for 6 weeks, with each participant coming once a week. The classes are offered year-round, except for the month of August,

Anyone interested in the therapeutic riding or driving classes, with Special Equestrians, must complete our participant packet. The packet includes information and release forms, emergency medical
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treatment forms, and medical evaluation forms. Potential participants must be evaluated by our head instructor.

Our Class Schedule, Participant Packet and Participant Handbook can be downloaded here:

Therapeutic Riding and Therapeutic Drving Classes

Special Equestrians


Special Equestrians Guidelines for Eligability

Special Equestrians Participant Handbook

Special Equestrians Participant Packet

Special Equestrians Class Schedule

Special Equestrian Calendar

Special Equestrians' first drill team was formed in 2011 by PATH, Intl. certified instructors, Justin Parchem and Amy Oxendine.  Our drill teams are made up of current participants who are ready for a challenging lesson as an independent rider.  There are 3-6 members on each drill team and they ride the Special Equestrians' program horses. The drill teams practice once a week during their therapeutic riding class at Special Equestrians.

Drill Team

Special Partners is one of Special Equestrians’ outreach programs in which our therapy horses and outreach team make visits to local agencies, schools and community groups. During these visits, Special Partners facilitates the well-being of children and adults with special needs who can benefit from the human-animal bond.

The visit will last for approximately one hour and can be structured to include one or more of the following:

  • Meet and Greet our Special Partners horses – pet and brush a Special Partners horse
  • Learning about Horses - 4 learning stations (horses, grooming, feed, equipment)
  • Reading Rodeo Literacy Program –
    Read, or listen to, three books about horses and earn a copy of our book, "Guiness the Rescue Pony."

Special Partners

The drill teams are made up of the most advanced riders from Special Equestrians and they have performed at many events around the state of Florida. These events include: The Arabian Nights Dinner Theater  in Orlando, The Seminole Indian Casino Annual Balloons over Paradise event in Immokalee, and the Cracker Day Rodeo in North Fort Myers, Florida. Our teams have competed and won in qualifying rides in Sarasota and North Fort Myers, Florida for the Sunshine State Mounted Drill Team Association. They have also won first place in our local Extreme Equine Club Horse Show.

The Special Partners program is designed to educate and provide human-animal contact for children and adults which can result in benefits such as:  empathy building, outward focus, nurturing skills, rapport building, acceptance, entertainment, socialization, mental stimulation, physical contact and touch, and physiological benefits. Bringing a trained horse to meet with participants, is meant to facilitate growth in these areas as a natural source of healing in our community.

Our Special Partners horses and handlers are registered members of Pet Partners, which upholds standards of professionalism in the field of animal-assisted activities.  Each Special Partners horse and handler team has been certified by the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program.

The places we have been and the people we have met...

  • Artful Gardens
  • Bonita Springs YMCA
  • Brookdale Senior Living
  • Buckingham Exceptional Student Center
  • Camp United
  • Diplomat Elementary
  • Eden School
  • Faith Academy
  • Goodwill Pathways to Opportunity
  • Goodwill Trailways Camp
  • Impact for Development Education
  • LARC
  • LCEC Tunes & Taste Buds
  • Lighthouse of SWFL
  • Lily Academy
  • Oak Hammock Elementary
  • PACE Center for Girls of Lee County
  • Patriot Elementary
  • Pinewoods Elementary
  • Renaissance Montessori
  • River Hall Elementary
  • Salvation Army
  • San Carlos Park Elementary
  • Tanglewood Elementary
  • The Palms of Fort Myers
  • Tice Elementary

Details of Our Services

Therapeutic Riding

Our therapeutic riding program’s main focus is to teach horseback-riding skills, while using therapeutic activities tailored to individual rider’s needs. These lessons are designed specifically for riders with physical and cognitive disabilities. Group lessons are structured with four riders in a class, each taught by a certified riding instructor. These small group mounted therapeutic riding lessons take place simultaneously in our large covered 100’ x 200’ arena for a 1-hour session which includes time to mount and dismount riders.  Some riders, if they are interested, may go back to the barn to help untack and groom their horse. 

Therapeutic riding develops small and gross motor skills, problem-solving abilities, teaches important emotional and physical processes, and builds social connection between riders and their instructors, volunteers, and other riders.  Riders often do not realize they are gaining therapeutic benefits because they are having so much fun!

Experiencing the motion of a horse is therapeutic because horseback riding rhythmically moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to the human gait. Riders with physical disabilities regularly show improvement in flexibility, balance, and muscle strength. In addition to the therapeutic benefits, horseback riding also provides recreational opportunities for individuals to enjoy the outdoors. 

Horseback riding activities also encourage stretching and strengthening of underused or underdeveloped muscles, improve posture and coordination, help develop gross and fine motor skills, increase the rider’s awareness of his or her body and improve range of motion. In addition, riders with disabilities increase their self-esteem and self-confidence and increase their ability to focus and stay on task.

Therapeutic Driving

Therapeutic Driving is a fast-growing sport and it is becoming recognized for its unique therapeutic value. Using a horse and carriage gives participants an alternative to riding, opening the world of horses to those who may be unable to ride due to weight, balance, physical limitations and many other issues. Therapeutic Driving is about learning the knowledge of safety, horses, harnessing and driving skills and provides the student with a range of movements and a lot of sensorimotor experiences. It takes 3-5 volunteers to make one driving team to assist in our driving classes.

Special Equestrians has the good fortune of having a volunteer, Mike Freeman, who had a great deal of driving experience. He was very interested in pursuing the goal of becoming a PATH Intl. Certified Driving Instructor, which he accomplished in 2016. Mike began determining what equipment and vehicle would be needed. Because of a generous donation, SE was able to purchase a cart built for therapeutic driving. Mike began recruiting and training his driving team volunteers in 2016. In 2017, the program had their first driving students. The carriage driving season is offered at Special Equestrians from late October through April as we use our 14.5-acre property for our driving arena and driving trails.

Therapy Services - Occupational Therapy utilizing Hippotherapy

Strides Occupational Therapy Services has partnered with Special Equestrians to provide occupational therapy services using hippotherapy as a treatment strategy. Using our valuable equines, children and adults can receive therapy services like never before. The minimum age to receive these services is 2 years old. For information or to schedule an evaluation, please contact Strides Occupational Therapy at 239-404-8329

What is Hippotherapy?

The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes. In conjunction with the affordances of the equine environment and other treatment strategies, hippotherapy is part of a patient's integrated plan of care. (American Hippotherapy Association definition). You will see many benefits from adding hippotherapy to a plan of care including improvements in sensorimotor integration, motor timing and coordination, strength, endurance, balance, midline orientation, bilateral integration, speech, mobility, and many more.

How it Works?

Neuromotor: The movement of a horse’s hind legs and pelvis is transmitted to the person riding, which causes movement in the pelvis of that person. The rhythmical and symmetrical gait of the horse provides about 3000 “walking” steps to the client in one 30-minute session. Sensory: The horse, farm site, barn, and arena all provide countless opportunities for sensory exposure on every level.

Cognitive: The client may have to complete complex tasks like following multiple step directions or recalling a sequence of movements, or more simpler tasks like remembering their horse’s name and color. 

Sarah Poindexter, MS, OTR/L began the certification process in 2015 by taking the American Hippotherapy Association’s Level 1 and 2 courses, and successfully passing the AHCB (American Hippotherapy Board Certification) board examination in 2016. She also became a PATH, Intl. Registered Therapist in 2016. As an AHCB certified therapist, she began offering hippotherapy as a treatment strategy in January of 2018 at Special Equestrians, Inc. in Ft. Myers, Florida.

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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



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