For Developmentally Disabled Children and Adults, Riding Center Is More Than Horse Play

From a platform underneath the awning of a new arena, the mother of seven-year-old Nicholas Cosentino marveled at the confidence her son put on display as he sat up straight in the saddle for all to see.

Horses, she said, are “his thing.”

For far too long, Nicholas, has had difficulty focusing, but sessions at the Naples Therapeutic Riding Center appear to be improving his attention span. The Florida nonprofit provides psychotherapy for Nicholas who is diagnosed with autism and other equine-facilitated services for women and children with emotional, learning and developmental disabilities.

Through a series of grants and donations in the past decade, the riding center has expanded to include a 4,000 square-foot training and research center, a round riding arena and a four-stall barn complete with a stable of horses to accommodate some 700 participants.

Another $12,000 grant from Swing With Purpose this month will fund tailored learning and psychotherapy services for at-risk children and teens from the PACE Center for Girls in Jacksonville and the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Immakolee. Participants will attend eight-week sessions in which they will work directly with horses and in groups to help improve their lives.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said thousands of dollars in grant funds are available to help children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities push their boundaries. GrantWatch lists grants for treatment services, research, and transportation, housing, recreation and peer support programs among other funding opportunities.

Beside Nicholas Consentino, the riding center works with participants ranging in age from 4 to 82 years old. Their conditions vary from Down syndrome and spina bifida to an even wider range of emotional, learning and developmental challenges. Many, due to cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, are wheel-chair bound or need crutches.

In recent years, the riding center has expanded programming to military veterans and partnered with dozens of community organizations including the David Lawrence Center for those struggling with substance abuse.

Lee Consentino said the one-week sessions for her son at the riding center are more than horse play. Nicholas can ride his horse, Dexter, around the arena, picking up bean bags and dropping them in poles. When he’s done, Nicholas is on his high horse, yet, he can jump off Dexter with ease.

Nonprofits, school districts, municipalities and communty-based groups frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants to provide services for children and adults with development disabilities can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.comSign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com