Ocala, FL (September 11, 2012) – Bruce Ekstrom of Tuigpaarden Farms in Ocala, Florida and Hackney Hill Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky is well known for his philanthropic contributions to the equine community, and he has demonstrated a special affinity for therapeutic riding programs particular. Ekstrom recently donated Hemi, a sleek French Trotter, to the Marion County Therapeutic Riding Association when he recognized that the horse’s character and disposition would make him an excellent therapy horse. Hemi, who was imported from France, has won over a half million dollars as a roadster and driving horse.
The French Trotter is the equivalent to the USTA’s Standardbred, and Ekstrom purchased Hemi to be his personal road horse as the gelding possessed exceptional speed, elegance and intelligence: all the qualities for an ideal competitive driving horse. A previous owner changed the horse’s name to Hemi, which is a very powerful type of engine, to reflect his power and brilliance. The decision to reschool Hemi and donate him to the Marion County Therapeutic Riding Association was based on the horse’s love of people and intuitive sense for recognizing confidence or insecurity in those around him. “Hemi has an excellent disposition, but he is also able to read people’s energy,” said Ekstrom. “Because of this I knew he would excel as a therapy horse and began to school him under saddle for this purpose. He’s simply an exceptional horse, and when he has finished his job at the Therapeutic Riding center, he will come back to my farm for his retirement.”
The Marion County Therapeutic Riding Association has been operating in central Florida since 1985, and offers therapeutic horseback and carriage rides for individuals of all ages who are challenged by physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Because of the potential dangers associated with horseback riding, only very quiet, responsive horses with excellent dispositions are used by centers like the Marion County Therapeutic Riding Association, and at times such horses are difficult to find. Ekstrom’s generous donation of Hemi and the dedication of volunteers and other supporters are what allow these worthwhile associations to continue to bring the joy of horses to mentally and physically challenged children and adults. “Therapeutic riding programs are extremely important and deserve the support of the equestrian community,” said Ekstrom. “Being involved with these organizations are one of the few things that give me goosebumps. To watch a person who can’t talk or move well get on a horse and suddenly they are smiling, talking, and enjoying life. The happiness on their faces and the change in their energy is why I continue to donate my time, energy and resources to support these programs.”
Ekstrom also served as a judge during the Vinceremos Special Olympics in Loxahatchee, Florida, a few months ago and was presented with a medal as a token of their appreciation for his continuing support. Ekstrom has a long history of breeding, training, and showing horses of many different breeds and over the years has worked closely with American Saddlebreds, American Show Poines, Miniature Horses, Dutch Harness horses, and Hackneys. He is a decorated competitor, and a longtime supporter of harness ponies and horses. Ekstrom believes driving is one of the best-kept secrets in the equine world, and is a generous and involved supporter of equestrian competitions, organizations, and shows across the country.
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Bruce K. Ekstrom -Tuigpaarden Farms