Jester Park Equestrian Center’s Horses Helping Heroes (H3) program has served over 300 military Veterans since its beginning in 2016. Now the equestrian center staff are expanding its offerings to reach even more Veterans. The new Veterans Carriage Driving Program is one of the first programs of its kind in the Midwest, thanks to the financial support from Prairie Meadows Race Track, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 53, and the Veterans Affairs Adaptive Sports Grant.
Toni Christiansen-Robb and Curtis Kentner will lead the Veterans Carriage Driving Program starting in September 2022. As a PATH International Certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, Christiansen-Robb is also a certified Equine Specialist with EAGALA and Trauma Sensitive Certified with the HeartMath Institute. Kentner was a professional driver for the Budweiser Clydesdales and now serves as head coach and trainer for Jester Park’s public wagon operations.
According to Christiansen-Robb, “Learning to drive a horse-drawn carriage provides the challenge of working in harmony with a horse. It also contributes to increased core strength, improvement of balance, and motor skill coordination. Carriage driving also encourages the development of self-confidence while enhancing life skills.”
The Horses Helping Heroes (H3) program partners with VA Central Iowa Health Care to offer a variety of Equine Assisted Therapy and learning options for military Veterans and active duty members. H3 provides sessions for men and women, as well as a Bombshell Patriots session for women only. All programs are free of charge to any member of the military within the region.
Kentner added, “I want to recognize the leadership of Polk County Conservation and the Great Outdoor Foundation for their continued support of our horse herd. We have Percherons and Belgian Draft horse teams working hard for us. Without their encouragement, none of our wellness programs would be possible.”
Jester Park Equestrian Center, a division of Polk County Conservation, serves the most extensive county population in Iowa. Its mission is to be a community resource fostering education, outdoor recreation, and wellness with horses. The center offers many equine-related services, including guided trail rides, summer camps, wagon and sleigh rides, and other horse-inspired wellness programs.
Images available on request.
Media Contact: Alyssa Ayersman