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Horse riding program hopes to survive budget cuts | Business

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Horse riding program hopes to survive budget cuts
Horse riding program hopes to survive budget cuts

Hillsborough County, Florida -- Deni Andretta has been physically disabled for more than three decades.

In 1979, her vehicle collided with a tractor trailer, sending her into a several-month coma.  When she woke up, she could only move her fingers and her eyes.  Since then, she has slowly but miraculously recovered.

And for some of that, she thanks the horses at the Bakas Riding Center in northwest Hillsborough County.  It seems their hooves helped give her back her legs.

"The way the horse moves, it helps me walk.  I don't think I'd be walking today, because I'm very arthritic now, without riding because of the patterning," she said. "It keeps me a lot looser than I would be if I weren't riding."

Each week, she and 90 other people with disabilities come to the Bakas Riding Center.  A half-hour horse riding lesson costs them $10.

It takes up to $80,000 a year to keep the program running.

Since 1987, it's been funded by the Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation Department and the non-profit organization Horses for Handicapped.

As Hillsborough County considers its budget for the next fiscal year, instructors at the Bakas Riding Center hope their program isn't the first to go. 

"We're really hoping the people making decisions in the County see the validity in this program and the population we service," said instructor Elizabeth Harre-Orr.

Andretta would be devastated if the program were to go away.

"I would probably very quickly lose the ability to walk," she said.

To be eligible for the program, riders must provide a medical release from their doctor or from a program that confirms their disability. 

Bakas riders have both physical and mental disabilities and range in age from four years to adults.

Horse lessons at the Bakas Center are $35 an hour for the general public.

Anyone interested in volunteering or enrolling in the lessons can call the Bakas Center at 813-264-389, visit their website or email them at horsebakas@yahoo.com.

A final decision on next fiscal year's budget is expected by the end of the summer.  It's still too early to tell whether any possible cuts would trickle down to the Bakas Center.

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