AT THE OSCEOLA THERAPEUTIC EQUESTRIAN CENTER
Vendors hawking icy mint juleps on a warm spring afternoon, ladies in wide-brimmed hats and fine dresses, gentlemen in seersucker trousers and bowties, and the melodious tune of My Old Kentucky Home, all under the shadow of the iconic twin spires of Churchill Downs. These are the sights and sounds of the pinnacle of thoroughbred racing, and one of America’s most treasured past times, the running of the Kentucky Derby.
All across this great nation, families and friends will gather for backyard bar-b-ques, colleagues will meet up at the local pub, and spectators will fill the stands on the first Saturday in May. Some will come to test lady luck on a $2 bet. Others will come to soak in the spectacle of merriment and fun. And for some the sirens call in the form of pounding hooves eating up the dirt track. But in Osceola County, Florida, the ladies and gents gathering for the big race will have a grander purpose.
THE HEALING HORSES OF OSCEOLA
The Osceola County Therapeutic Equestrian Center is home to McCormick Research Institute (http://mccormick.us/), a PATH International (https://pathintl.org/) premiere accredited equine-assisted therapy center for Veterans and special needs individuals. And it’s also home to the annual Derby Race & Taste charity event each May.
Since 2002 McCormick (originally known as Heavenly Hooves) has been providing therapeutic services in partnership with their specially trained therapy horses to special needs individuals. Founded by CEO Thomasa Sanchez, the organization moved into its permanent home on Rummell Road in St. Cloud in 2016. This 40-acre property features a 14-stall barn, offices, meeting space, tack room, covered and outdoor arenas, round pen, and seven pastures.
In 2012, McCormick began partnering with the University of Central Florida, College of Medicine, researching the benefits of equine-assisted therapy for Veterans with PTSD. This program, known as Horses & Heroes, is providing mental and physiological healing to Central Florida’s wounded warriors. But the real impact of McCormick’s programs, is best understood “straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Rita, parent of a Heavenly Hooves participant, says, “My daughter sustained a head injury during a car accident and has had to learn how to do everything again. During the past 8 years, the staff and horses have done an amazing job of helping her strengthen and regain coordination.”
And Veteran Lito says of Horses & Heroes, “Great group of passionate individuals making a difference in the community. I credit them with saving my life.”
On Saturday, May 4th, from 4:30-9:00 p.m., the Osceola County Therapeutic Equestrian Center will be transformed into an elegant dinner party and Derby celebration to benefit McCormick’s programs. Red Carpet Registration includes two tickets to the event, featuring a delicious catered meal with full bar, fun casino games, cigars, a live band, and the race on the big screen!