MYAKKA CITY -- Prospect Riding Center opened in 2011 as a one-horse therapy center.
Today, Prospect has eight active horses, most of them donated, as well as two horses that graze in retirement on the nonprofit's 20 acres at 34250 State Road 70 E.
Despite the growth, Prospect remains a small, all-volunteer operation, with a vision of providing a safe and controlled equine therapuetic program in a natural setting for participants of all ages with special needs.
Founder Susan Tambone was drawn to horse therapy after seeing her youngest daughter, who was diagnosed with childhood onset epilepsy, benefit from the program.
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"It helped her development, and it got me excited about the program," Tambone said.
Program participants include clients with autism, Down syndrome, multiple schlerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson's disease, stroke and more, as well as their families and care givers.
"It is a working ranch, and our philosophy is this is the real world. We have varied riding areas from arena to trails," Tambone said. "We open up our services to benefit the family. We can do more one-on-one services because we are small."
Even though Prospect's annual budget is about $25,000, the nonprofit's volunteers are thinking long-term with a master plan that calls for construction of a covered arena.
Ginny Pellizzaro is one of the volunteers who signed on with Prospect soon after its founding.
"Susan had some really good, innovative ideas," Pellizzaro said.
What keeps Pellizzaro coming back is seeing how a youngster with special needs and no self-confidence becomes excited about riding, and how it can make a difference in their lives.
Pam and Tom Hennessey have volunteered at the center for about five years.
Tom Hennessey calls himself a ranch hand who helps with maintaining horse stalls and fences, and helping with special events.
"When I first came out here, I thought, what a great thing, and what a worthy cause," he said.
The public is invited to Prospect's annual Hoe Down Dance Jamboree 3-7 p.m. Saturday to learn more about the program.
Admission is free. Activities include dancing, a cow paddy toss contest, stick horse races, the blood mobile and more. Lunch tickets are available for $10.
"My goal is to get people out here to see the demonstrations in the arena. I really want people to see what we are doing," Tambone said.
For more information, visit prospectridingcenter.com, or call 941-713-1736. Prospect Riding Center also has a Facebook page.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.