Horse Crazy Gather at Biscayne Bay Yacht Club to Give a Leg Up for Children with Disabilities

Sarah Maslin Nir and Sissy DeMaria-Koehne.

Edited Press Release

MIAMI, FL (Dec. 8, 2021) – Mini horses, violins, yachts and more. On the eve of Give Miami Day on Nov. 17, at one of the oldest yacht clubs in the Southeast, the horse crazy community in South Florida giddied up to raise more than $40k for therapeutic horse-back riding and equine assisted scholarships for children and veterans with disabilities.

The dockside fundraiser featured a conversation with NY Times Reporter and critically acclaimed author and avid equestrian Sarah Maslin Nir who shared excerpts from her headline making autobiography, Horse Crazy which takes a high-spirited gallop into the reasons why so many people are horse-obsessed and how ponies and horses have the unique ability to transform the lives of those with disabilities through equine therapy.

Nir, a staff reporter for the New York Times, was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for “Unvarnished,” her investigation into New York City’s nail salon industry that uncovered the exploitative labor practices and health issues manicurists face. Before becoming a staff reporter, Nir was the Times’ nightlife columnist, covering 252 parties in eighteen months. She has reported for the Times from around the world, from West Africa and the Alaskan wilderness, to post-earthquake Haiti and wildfire-ravaged California. Nir earned a master’s at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and graduated from Columbia University. She loves horses so much that she flew down to Miami at her own expense to share her story and help raise funds for equine therapy.

Nir began riding horses when she was just two years old and hasn’t stopped since. She recanted scenes from Horse Crazy, her fascinating, funny and moving love letter to the graceful animals and the people obsessed with them.

The evening also celebrated the new partnership between Give Back for Special Equestrians founded by Sissy DeMaria-Koehne, Dr. Heather Kuhl and Isabel Ernst, in 2013 with Whispering Manes Therapeutic Riding Center in Miami’s horse country. Give Back for Special Equestrians is an all volunteer non profit that provides therapeutic horseback riding scholarships for disabled children and veterans in Florida and New York.  To-date, the organization has raised in excess of $240k for children and veterans to experience horse power that heals.

Whispering Manes, founded by philanthropist Nancy Hector, is a non-profit organization offering life changing therapeutic horseback riding and horsemanship classes for people with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities.

Dorothea Lantz, a mother of a child with a rare disorder shared her heartfelt story of the journey her son has had and his love affair with horses because of the transformative benefits of hippotherapy also known as equine therapy.

Among the notables in attendance were Nancy and Jon Batchelor, Nancy Hector, Christy Powell, Helen Picard, Dr. Heather Kuhl, Sandra and Randy Fiorenza, Munisha Underhill, Carol and Jim Robinson, Brian Exelbert, and the leader of Give Back’s Young Ambassador Program, Carlotta Goyenche.

“This evening would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors, Nancy Hector, Nancy and Jon Batchelor, Christy and Earl Powell, The Nateman Family, Kevin Diemar and Unity Jets, Coastal Cares, Sandra and Randy Fiorenza, Mercedes Benz of Coral Gables and Cutler Ridge, Cultivate PR, Coral Gables Community Foundation, Morgan Stanley, Baptist Health of South Florida, and The Cabrerizo Family,” said Give Back for Special Equestrians co-founder, Sissy DeMaria-Koehne.

The event raised more than $40k for the pivotal outreach of Whispering Manes Therapeutic Riding Center based in Miami. Whispering Manes is a 501©(3) non-profit organization offering therapeutic horseback riding and horsemanship classes for people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. Participants are able to interact with horses through mounted and un-mounted activities while being supervised by PATH-certified professionals. The program aims to promote improvements in core and overall muscle strength, balance, gross and fine motor skills, and communication skills. Additionally, participants frequently achieve a sense of self-accomplishment and self-esteem that is promoted by the powerful bond between humans and horses.

“Horses enhance and enrich the lives of children and adults with a very wide variety of challenges through equine-assisted activities and therapies. To a child or adult with a physical developmental or emotional disability, life looks a lot brighter on horseback. The power and warmth of a horse strengthens and tones muscles, improves balance, head control and coordination, builds patience and self-esteem and offers a sense of freedom and equality,” added DeMaria-Koehne.

About Give Back for Special Equestrians

Founded by Sissy DeMaria-Koehne with Dr. Heather Kuhl and Isabel Ernst in 2013 aims to share the joy of horses and horsemanship for those facing some of life’s most difficult challenges. Give back provides therapeutic horseback riding and equine-assisted scholarships for disabled children and veterans through its stable partners, including Whispering Manes, throughout Florida and New York. Recognizing the typical challenges to additional funding and a need for financial stability among the partner therapeutic centers, GBSE was founded. Support is provided primarily through direct scholarships for children and veterans, allowing the centers to focus on providing access to this life-changing therapy regardless of their riders’ abilities to pay. Give Back for Special Equestrians believes in the concept of “horse sense” and the importance of nurturing young equestrians in the value of giving back.

About Whispering Manes Therapeutic Riding Center

Whispering Manes Therapeutic Riding Center is a 501©(3), non-profit riding center located in the heart of Miami-Dade County offering horseback riding and therapeutic horsemanship classes for people with physical, cognitive and physical disabilities. Whispering Manes serves a community that would otherwise not have access to equine-assisted activities. Participants are able to interact with horses through mounted and un-mounted activities while being supervised by PATH-certified professionals. The program aims to promote improvements in core and overall muscle strength, balance, gross and fine motor skills, and communication skills. Additionally, participants frequently achieve a sense of self-accomplishment and self-esteem that is promoted by the powerful bond between humans and horses.

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