Story by Mike May | Photo by Frank Koester
Babylon, Bubba, Diesel, Gus, Milo, Pippa, Reggie, Sugar, Zeus and Zoey. Those are the names of just some of the more than 20 horses that live and work at the Vinceremos Therapeutic Horsemanship Center, which is under the direction of Ruth Menor, the group’s founder and chief programs officer.
Vinceremos has been serving people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities of all ages in Palm Beach County since 1982. The nonprofit was founded by Menor, who recruited many community leaders and volunteers to help this unique local treasure grow and thrive. It has been an invaluable part of Wellington’s equestrian community, and all of Palm Beach County, ever since.
When it was founded, Vinceremos was located off Lake Worth Road. Since 1995, the nonprofit has been operating from its 15-acre farm on Sixth Court North in Loxahatchee Groves. The property has undergone many upgrades. In 2011, donations were raised to build a covered arena there. This 45,000-square-foot “umbrella” protects the Vinceremos participants, staff and horses from the seasonal rain and heat. In 2016, thanks to many donations, a 24-stall, hurricane-proof barn was built to house the horses.
Back in the 1980s, Vinceremos started by offering therapeutic riding to those with disabilities. Today, there are a variety of programs offered that provide the benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies.
Vinceremos is a premier accredited center through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH). “All of our instructors and facilitators hold certifications with PATH,” explained Menor, herself a PATH master instructor.
In the beginning, Menor started Vinceremos with just one horse, Cinnamon. It was Menor’s own horse since she was a young girl. Cinnamon died in the late 1980s, but her spirit lives on in every horse at Vinceremos.
Three of the more popular programs are adaptive riding, equine-assisted learning and equine-assisted psychotherapy. The adaptive riding program is the nonprofit’s foundational program. While each serves a different clientele, they all have the same purpose.
“We are teaching horse-riding skills that help the rider develop and improve their non-verbal communication skills,” Menor said. “The rider is also taught the importance of maintaining physical balance and coordination while riding the horses.”
Horses don’t know that the rider may be autistic or suffer from ADHD or have some emotional disability, but that’s not important. What’s important is for the rider to realize that he or she is in charge of guiding and communicating with the horse.
When the rider successfully guides and instructs a horse, there’s a huge benefit. “The rider can feel empowered, and that carries over to the rest of their life outside Vinceremos,” Menor said.
At Vinceremos, the riders also get to work on improving their responsibility skills. This means taking care of the horses. “Our riders do lots of stable work. They clean the stalls. They also groom, wash and feed the horses,” Menor said. “The riders get to know the horses as individuals.”
One of the best examples of the impact of Vinceremos is Jeffrey Perham, who has been affiliated with the program since Menor opened in 1982. Perham has an intellectual disability and volunteers 40 hours a week. “We call Jeffrey a horse whisperer,” Menor said. “He can do just about anything with the horses. He will ride the horses one or two days a week. He works in the barn, waters the horses, cleans their stalls, feeds the horses and grooms the horses. The horses like Jeffrey.”
The key to the continued success of Vinceremos is a steady flow of volunteers who help take care of the horses, provide assistance with the clients or assist with fundraisers. To find out more, visit www.vinceremos.org, call (561) 792-9900 or e-mail to email@example.com.