As a child, Bonnie Rachael fell in love with horses. As a teenager, she credited horses with getting her life back on track. And now as an adult, she’s changing lives through Faith Equestrian Center.
Founded in 2006 with two horses in Bonnie’s backyard in Guyton, GA, the center now serves more than 160 children a year. A small staff supported by volunteers operates what is now a 10-acre farm complete with 14 horses and a riding arena.
“Our center brings out the best in people,” says Bonnie, a retired Savannah Police Department officer. “We bring the community together for a common good. These children need a safe place to learn and grow, and we are a hub for that.”
Bonnie’s passion for horses and children is the driving force behind Faith Equestrian Center, which is the only facility in the area accredited by Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH). Fueled by nearly 7,500 volunteer hours last year, the Center works with individual families and provides programs through Effingham County Schools.
Therapeutic riding helps with the cognitive, physical, emotional and social skills for people of all ages with special needs. An example, Bonnie says, is a young girl with Down Syndrome who came to the Center withdrawn and speaking in muted tones. The simple, graceful movement of horseback riding helped strengthen her core, correct her posture and provide her with the confidence to speak up.
Students in the Effingham County Schools program work with Faith Equestrian to reinforce math and vocabulary skills. Students ride horses along trails from station to station, picking up flashcards with questions and activities to complete and reinforce learning.
This year, Bonnie plans to work with Wounded Warriors to introduce a program for veterans.
“Our program is not a pony ride,” Bonnie says. “Although it is fun for the kids and others, this is totally about gaining life skills. Our ultimate goal is inclusion in society.”
To volunteer at Faith Equestrian Center, call 912-728-3728. Volunteers are especially needed for students who come to the Center during school hours — each student requires three volunteers to participate in the program.
About Circle & Shield
Cingo means to surround and secure — to protect. That’s what we do. And we have a lot of respect for those who take it upon themselves to make protection a part of what they do, too. That’s why we’ve launched Circle & Shield, our award to a member of the community who helps make the world a better place, a safer place.