Helping Children with Special Needs Using Equine Therapy

My friends Angela Jackson and Shannon Crisante recently joined me for an episode of Megan Morris TV. These two inspiring women are instructors at Spirit Horse at Windermere Equestrian Center. Spirit Horse is a therapeutic riding center. They provide equine-assisted therapy to developmentally disabled youth in Central Florida. My son has been coming here for years, so I’ve been fortunate to witness the power of equine therapy first hand. It has made a huge difference for my whole family.

Head instructor Shannon Crisante’s journey into this work started with her own healing. During the time when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, they were staying at a horse farm. She discovered that being with horses was the most effective therapy for her. Now she gets to offer this therapy to others.

Spirit Horse is a place for all ages to enjoy. In addition to the horses, there are also other animals to see—from tortoises and donkeys to pigs and sheep. Not only is there a variety of things to see, but there’s a lot to do at their facility. They have a vegetable garden and lots of land for siblings and friends to run around and play.

Programs Offered

A child leading a pony near horse stables

Therapeutic Riding

Spirit Horse provides therapeutic horseback riding services for both children and adults with special needs. Equine therapy is especially great for people with special needs since they commonly suffer from anxiety. Being with the horses offers them a calming experience.

Spirit Horse has developed a research-based program of equine-assisted healthcare. It’s often confused with recreational therapy, but it has a different goal. Their therapy sessions for children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a great example. In these sessions, they guide children through a series of 178 specific steps in a one-on-one setting. This illustrates how well thought out and intentional their programs are.

Child Development Services

A child in a wheelchair leading a horse at Spirit Horse at Windermere Equestrian Center

Without Spirit Horse, many children would not receive the child development services that children without disabilities have access to in school systems. For instance, Spirit Horse incorporates skills like learning how to focus and stay on task in their lessons. Because they implement the skills in a natural way, miraculous breakthroughs are a normal occurrence at Spirit Horse.

How to Get Involved

If you are interested in getting involved, there are many volunteer opportunities available at Spirit Horse. You don’t have to have a great knowledge of horses. Here are some ways you can volunteer.

Equine Care

Equine care gives you the amazing opportunity to work directly with the horses on the farm. This can include helping at feeding time, turn out, and general care. To volunteer in equine care, you will be required to first attend a volunteer orientation and training session.


Young man with autism spectrum disorder at Spirit Horse at Windermere Equestrian Center

Volunteers can also help with overall maintenance around the farm. This can include daily stall cleaning, repairs, improvements, construction projects, or field care.

Special Events

Spirit Horse raises a lot of their funds through their special events. You can volunteer for committee work, event coordination, care of the horses during the event, and support services to name a few. This is a great way to volunteer without having to make a recurring commitment to the farm.

Special Skills

Spirit Horse welcomes volunteers to contribute any of their gifts or talents. Whether you have photography skills or computer skills, they would appreciate any help you can offer.

If you would like to get more information on volunteering, you can contact Kim Smith, the volunteer coordinator, at (407) 446-9813. To learn more about Spirit Horse’s therapy lessons you can contact Shannon Crisante at (321) 239-4570.

Learn More About Spirit Horse on Megan Morris TV

If you’d like to learn even more about Spirit Horse, watch my interview with Angela and Shannon below.

I hope that you enjoyed this video. If you are interested in volunteering at Spirit Horse at Windermere Equestrian Center, I encourage you to give it a try. It truly is a wonderful cause.


P.S. To see more videos like this one, follow Megan Morris TV on YouTube or check out another episode in which I discuss fauxtanical design with the founder of local Orlando company, Stacked & Co.