Clearwater horse-therapy program needs help getting back in saddle amid pandemic

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Like many non-profit organizations, Inspire Equine Therapy in Clearwater has had a bumpy ride over the past few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inspire’s stable of programs include adaptive riding, driving and agricultural education, designed for young people and adults with disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and PTSD.

According to Founder and Executive Director Melissa Yarbrough, before the pandemic, Inspire served 65 teens and adults and more than 100 veterans each year. However, due to social distancing and other safety concerns, Inspire is only helping 10 people with disabilities and approximately two dozen veterans.

Meanwhile, costs for cleaning and sanitizing, in addition to caring for Inspire’s horses, have spiked. Inspire absorbs costs for its programs with donations, the majority of which is raised during the organization’s annual fundraiser, the Boot Scootin’ Barn Dance. Approximately 85 percent of Inspire’s operating costs are generated by the event, which this year is forced to move to a virtual format.

Yarbrough hopes that the online format will allow more people to participate, and adds that the virtual Barn Dance will include all of the elements of Inspire’s traditional event, including an auction and silent auction. Fortunately, the event’s yearly sponsors again signed on to participate.

Yarbrough is optimistic that the fundraiser will prepare Inspire to get back in the saddle again, as soon as the program is open to all participants again.

RSVP for the Boot Scootin’ Barn Dance, scheduled for Oct. 24, or learn more about Inspire Equine Therapy on the organization’s website.

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