St. Augustine Woman's Journal - Educational Resource to the Women of St. Johns County Since 2009

By Ric Lehman
Executive Director, Haven Horse Ranch 

Trickle Down... -or- Irma Comes Knocking...


October 1, 2017 | View PDF

As I write this, we are all in the midst of recovery from Hurricane Irma. She left quite a mess in her wake that we were all left to clean up. Here at Haven Horse Ranch we had our share of damage. We lost half of our arena, our canopy over the bleachers was a total loss, suffered some damage to the roofs over the barn and the house and we lost quite a few trees. But as always, we in St Johns County are a resilient lot and we will come through this too. This is just one of the many issues we all face on a daily basis. Some of us though face more than others. One that we know only too well are those who are faced with a child with Special Needs.

That's where the many non-profits like Haven Horse Ranch come in. We exist to provide therapy services to those in need. In our case we provide Equine Assisted Therapy to children with Special Needs like Autism, MS, MD, Cerebral Palsy, Down's Syndrome, PTSD, various learning disorders, At Risk and so much more.

We provide those service because there is a need. And in most cases the families we serve have nowhere else to turn. They have little to no resources but still need help. Our particular program has been around for over 25 years and has enjoyed many, many successes like a child's first words or their first steps and so much more.

But like everyone else, we only have a certain number of hours in a day to do what we do. And to provide our services, we need infrastructure; a ranch, horses, grounds, equipment and the list goes on. Every day we are faced with a choice, we can spend our time doing therapy for children in need, or we can spend it doing chores and caring for the facility. We can spend our monies on additional staff or we can spend it on additional therapy for children. What you may not realize though, is the choice is yours.

Yes, I said the choice of how we spend our funds is yours. You see, the more people that volunteer, the more we can focus on therapy. Think about it. For every hour someone volunteers, they free up a therapist to do therapy. For every job we can do with volunteers, that's more money we can spend on therapy. So by volunteering, you are helping a child get needed therapy. What can you do? I'm glad you asked.

We need help with the grounds, mowing, trimming, landscaping, planting and cleaning up. We need help caring for the barn. We need help with fundraising. If you shop at Amazon, consider going to and designating Haven Ranch, Inc. as your charity of choice. If you do that, Amazon will donate .5% of whatever you spend on Amazon to our local children. All you do then is shop! May not seem like much, but if enough people do it, it will make a huge difference. Consider designating your United Way contribution to Haven Ranch, Inc. That way it will go straight to providing therapy and not to a general fund.

Now if you don't have time or an inclination to volunteer, please consider a tax-deductible donation. At any time you can go to and make a secure donation that will be used to provide therapy for a child in need.

By doing any of this, you now are making a choice to provide therapy in your own way. I promise, you will make a difference! And the difference will be felt here in our own hometown!

Haven Horse Ranch, a non-profit, 501c3 organization is a licensed SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center and member of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship). The ranch provides riding lessons, horse camps, clinics , retreats and trail rides to all individuals including those with special needs. "Horses just have a way of breaking down barriers," explains Lehman. Whether child or adult, whether "normal" or "special needs" doesn't matter to the horse. If you're good to them, they'll do right by you." To sponsor a child, make a tax deductible contribution or for more information contact Haven Horse Ranch at 904-813-5710 or or visit our website at


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