Ocala Horse Properties - 2023 Summer Farm Portfolio

it’s bringing horses to children who wouldn’t have that opportunity, and it’s such a horse community.” The main idea is bringing the books to life as a former school principal, Garcia-Bengochea said, “I really love that! It can really change the way they think when they read. We’re also doing fundraising to leave books in all the schools, and some are already in local libraries, but we want kids to have access in the school libraries.” She added, “The messages of the books are very positive. When you leave a classroom and you’ve got a photo of the kids with the horse and the books in their hand it’s very meaningful. Having horses in the schools is a wonderful introduction. They’re also planning on doing farm visits with high school kids; horses are a multi billion dollar industry and there are all kids of opportunities – be a vet, a farrier, an exercise rider – there’s all kind of care for horses and we’re part of that introduction. We’re doing Pre-K to 3rd Grade, though some schools are up to 5th grade. She continued, “That’s also the most important time with reading; you go from learning to read to reading to learn, and kids who haven’t found the magic of books, that’s a difficult thing. We want to get them excited to read books, and if the character happens to be a horse walking through the door, all the better! Finances can be an issue for smaller libraries but they know when a horse comes to the library, people show up. It’s important to us to keep kids reading all summer long, and a lot of kids are getting their first library card because we’re bringing the horses in.” She recounted that one young girl was amazed that she could take out books and movies at no cost from the library. “Children come to the library with parents, and we also talk to parents about the importance of reading to their kids every day. There are some parents who take this for granted, but others don’t realize the importance of taking 15 minutes every day to read to your child. If a child is not reading by 3rd grade their opportunities are diminished.” The program also works with preschools, and she said that when a horse walks into a classroom, students give it their full attention – which is why they wait until after the book has been read to bring the horse in. Garcia-Bengochea said that their volunteers also make the read-aloud sessions special. “All of our volunteers are retired teachers, and one is a reading specialist. Our only problem is the schools keep trying to hire them! But they’re good with kids and know how to keep someone’s attention. That’s a huge part of the program as well. It’s a really nice program, and I don’t think there’s anything like it anywhere else. It’s important what we’re doing with horses and education, and how important reading is.” TINY HORSES HEALING TRAUMAS While the literacy program is making a huge impact, Gentle Carousel also does some tough but important work. The special bond between these miniature horses and humans is something that Gentle Carousel aims to share with people “The main point of the program is bringing the books to life; a number of horses have had books written about them, and when the child reads the book, then the main character comes in - that has a huge impact.” DEBBIE GARCIA-BENGOCHEA, COFOUNDER OF GENTLE CAROUSEL MINIATURE THERAPY HORSES “Sandy Hook called us that night and told us that they wanted their kids talking about minis, not monsters.” DEBBIE GARCIA-BENGOCHEA Magic at Sandy Hook. OCALA HORSE PROPERTIES | SUMMER SEASON 2023 OCALAHORSEPROPERTIES.COM | 99