Ocala Horse Properties - 2023 Summer Farm Portfolio

suffering from trauma, and the horses have visited survivors of well-known traumatic events including the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT; the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida where they comforted the Medical Examiners working on the incident; and the children of Tulsa, Oklahoma who were sheltered in an elementary school for days while their community was devastated by massive tornadoes. “Sandy Hook called us that night because they wanted their kids talking about minis, not monsters,” she said. Ocala Horse Properties’ Matt Varney was a student at Columbine High School in Colorado when a school shooting took place there, and as a survivor of gun violence in schools he found the connection with Gentle Carousel and Newtown particularly relatable. Varney said, “Personally I was moved by Gentle Carousel’s work with the Newtown Elementary School survivors. The horses were used to calm the survivors, who were young children, while they told police about what they had seen that day. The story of the horses helping these children through this traumatic experience undoubtedly moved me and showed what an impact therapy horses can have.” One of the horses, Magic, works with the Ocala Police Department, visiting schools (officers also take part in the read-aloud programs), encouraging the 911 operators and helping people overcome trauma. One of the police officers recently lost their child, and Officer Magic will attend the funeral and provide comfort to the child’s classmates. FUNDING THE PROGRAM The miniature horses have been featured in numerous books, publications, television shows and documentaries, but Garcia-Bengochea said that all of this fame does not necessary bring fortune. As a non-profit, they provide their services free of charge to those in need, and with the high cost of feed and veterinary care, she said that they are really on a month-to-month budget. This includes maintaining the 12acre farm in Ocala where the horses live, providing feed and veterinary care, andmaintaining and running the customized horse box that transports the horses to schools, hospitals and other locations. Horses also visit patients in hospitals and hospices and she added, “A big part of the cost is the insurance; being in hospitals, and in schools, the horses carry two million dollar liability insurance, and then they wanted more. The school board was even tougher than the hospitals!” As a charitable organization, Gentle Carousel does not charge for their services, and they do not have a steady stream of income. Instead, they rely on donations to keep the horses fed, housed and cared for. “People think we’re really well-funded, but it’s really monthto-month,” she said “There are around 65 schools in Marion County, then the private schools, the pre-schools, and the libraries. What we’re taking on as a small charity is huge. We’ve done a little of everything; we did the premiere of the documentary about our horse Magic, at a theater, with a red carpet and everything. We’ve done different kinds of fundraisers but at this point, we’re really asking local businesses to help.” She pointed out that having a well-educated community is good for business, and they hope that local members of the community recognize this and step forward to become literacy leaders. “There’s a link on the website so that businesses can contact us and my hope is that people say, hey, that’s something that we can get behind.” Returning to the top of careers with horses, she said, “We would love to create a coloring book to pass out to kids highlighting careers with horses. Not everyone wants to go to college, and there are plenty of people here who started out mucking stalls and now they’re the CEOof horse businesses. It just takes funding. It was a two-year process to get school board approval, to get through the red tape and insurance and so on. I think for the Ocala horse community it could be something really special and unusual. Especially for kids who have never touched a horse, when a horse is in the classroomand you’re giving kids that kind of opportunity, it’s really special.” Therapy horse Magic at the Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida. This is the program’s 17th year of working with kids at this location. SUMMER SEASON 2023 | OCALA HORSE PROPERTIES 100 | OCALAHORSEPROPERTIES.COM To advertise Your Farm in this publication, please call (352) 615-8891