Florida on a Tankful: Soquili Stables offers horses, healing

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, June 08, 2017, 1:10 PM EDT

"Come on Nora,” stable manager Stacey Foster said, taking the hand of a 5-year-old.  “She's going to go tack up her horse and stuff."

With that affirmative hand, Stacey begins to dress a horse named Jed for a riding lesson.

"Take a pad and put it on Jed Jed,” she said to her young apprentice.

Five-year-old Nora Diaz is wide-eyed with attention. Wearing her “big girl boots,” Nora is ready for her favorite activity.

"Horseback riding lessons!” a quiet Nora suddenly exclaimed what she’s here for.

"Where's our high five?” Stacey asked of Nora after the saddle is properly fitted.

At less than 4 feet tall, Nora has no trouble moving forward with her 1,100 lbs. friend, held only by a rope. Jed slowly follows her every step.

"If you want to go backwards, you say 'back,' and pull,” Nora explains like an expert.

In Crystal River find Soquili Stables. "It means horse,” Stacey said.

Soquili Stables at Faith Haven Christian Retreat Center offers trail rides and riding lessons with a group of special horses.

"If you are a genuine person with a good heart, or young kid, who is innocent, this is the safest thing you could be, is around is a horse,” Stacey said.

While it looks like a ranch that's open to everyone, Stacey believes this is therapy for those needing emotional and developmental support. The equine therapy even has a name, “Horses N Healing.”

"I teach the girls to get their confidence and wear it. Don't be afraid,” she said.

“Respect that animal. He's bigger than you,” she said with passion.

While Stacey will tell you her students have learned life lessons, it's Stacey who admits, she has a greater appreciation for life.

"[I] Went to the streets, was homeless, that kind of thing,” Stacey said with emotion. “This place has given me faith back. This place has changed my life."

Now, Stacey is ready to change the lives of those needing extra tender loving care.

"I love my clients; my little girls. I see them grow. And that's what's important to me,” she said with heart.

It's that same compassion that Nora and other students have felt and the horses also crave.

"You are doing a great job today,” Stacey offered after a session while walking with Nora back to the barn.

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