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The Horses of Grace

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Radical, “Rad”, is a 22-year-old paint gelding who stands 15.3 hands tall. Radical is an excellent trail horse and is continuing to build his skills in both English and Western Dressage. He has loads of personality and is known for his variety of silly facial expressions, which bring smiles to many around the barn.

 

Radical is excellent at teaching people how horses communicate and our teen and adult riders enjoy doing ground work with him before starting in the saddle. He’s a sensitive horse who truly cares about his riders. Rad is owned and leased to the program by Dr. Bess Darrow with Tune-ups Equine Dentistry.

DayDay is a chunky, 17-year old Gypsy Vanner/Quarter Horse gelding who stands at 14 hands.  He is a former calf- and team roping horse who was a working cow pony on his owners family ranch in southwest Texas.

DayDay loves humans, attention, and Cheetos!!  He is enjoying trading roles of competitive roping and working cattle and goats for helping develop confidence and rider skills with the lessons he is now involved in with Grace Under the Oaks.

DayDay loves learning new things and loves being petted and brushed.  If you really want to score points with him, give him a good belly scratch!!

DayDay is owned and leased to the program by Grace volunteer Kelly (“KJ”) Jones/Rocking K Ranch LLC.

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“Lilly” is a 20-year-old silver roan miniature mare who stands 38” tall.  Lilly does not live on the farm, but comes by for special activities and events.  

 

Lilly represents Grace Under the Oaks for special occasions and has visited schools, churches, Special Olympics events and even the Ronald McDonald house.

 

This little girl loves being the center of attention and is always up for an adventure.  Lilly is owned by our Executive Director and Instructor, Jennifer Lang.

Grace Staff

Jennifer Lang,
Executive Director

PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor

As a life-long equine enthusiast, Jennifer often says that she was born with the love of horses in her blood. She began formal riding lessons at age 7 and the passion only grew from there. With over 25 years of riding experience and over 17 years of horse ownership; Jennifer is well-versed in horse husbandry and rider development.

 

She graduated from the University of North Florida with her Master of Special Education degree, with a focus in Deaf Studies in 2009. During her college years, she also took the opportunity to teach beginner riding lessons to local students.

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After graduation, Jennifer worked at Atlantic Coast HS as the teacher of the deaf/hard-of-hearing for 5 years, where she also coached the Special Olympics teams for flag football and track and field.

 

After transitioning to become a stay-at-home mom in 2016, Jennifer began volunteering with local therapeutic riding program, Hope Therapy. It was at this time that she also became a Special Olympics coach for equine disciplines, with participants consistently progressing to “Area” and State levels of competition.  In 2018, she earned her certification as a registered therapeutic riding instructor through PATH Intl. and achieved her certified level title the following year. In January 2020, Jennifer helped build the team that would become Grace Under the Oaks.

Now, as Executive Director and riding instructor for Grace Under the Oaks, Jennifer enjoys being able to share her love of horses with others. When not leading the Grace Under the Oaks team, or caring for her two sons, Colton and Bennett, Jennifer takes every opportunity to spend time with the horses. She co-leases program horse Radical and often goes on trail rides and competes in local English and Western dressage shows. This ensures Radical stays challenged and fit. Jennifer also owns Lilly, the miniature horse, that the program uses for special events.

“Being a part of this program is such a blessing. I have the opportunity to do what I love and, in that process, I get to meet incredible riders who inspire me with their open hearts and determined spirits. I witness horses break down walls, spark deep connections and inspire others.  It doesn’t get much better than that! These horses can be miracle workers and it is an honor to work alongside them.”  - Jennifer Lang

Donna Grasso,
PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor

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Donna Grasso recently earned her certification from PATH Intl. and is now an official PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI)! We are so proud of her accomplishment!

In addition to her life as a professional rider, trainer and instructor, Donna is an accomplished fine artist who works in many varied media, including oil and watercolor paint, drawing, charcoal, pastel, and is well-known for her beautiful commissioned animal portraits.

Donna teaches art part time at Seven Bridges School in Orange Park, a private school that focuses on individualized education. Donna also provides private art instruction.

 
My journey with Grace Under the Oaks has been a continuous unsurpassed reward and inspiration. It is a unique opportunity to combine my horsemanship background with my experience of utilizing individualized methods of teaching, with a little bit of fun art activities for good measure.

The connection with the horses as they support our goals and inspire our clients is breathtaking in its simplicity. This feeling extends to the entire team of volunteers and instructors as we become a unit, lesson after lesson.

I am deeply honored to be part of Grace Under the Oaks!

Cindy Ballantyne,
Volunteer Coordinator

PATH Intl. Certified Equine Specialist
in Mental Health and Learning

Cindy Ballantyne is a Certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning with PATH Intl. She discovered her purpose and passion in 2016 when she began her own journey of healing. Cindy is a veteran of the United States Army who struggled with symptoms of PTSD.

 

Cindy became an active volunteer with a PATH Intl. equine program after receiving services as a client. She pursued a PATH Intl. certification to allow her to serve others who struggle with PTSD and other challenges.

 

Cindy is honored to be the Volunteer Coordinator for Grace Under the Oaks.

 

“I am here to see those who feel unseen, listen to those who feel unheard, and help them find their voice.” 

- Cindy Ballantyne

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Board of Directors

Mary Baer Fiorentino, Chair
Jill Morris, Vice Chair
Kathy Ornstein, Secretary
Holly Dale, Treasurer
Michelle Eller, Marketing Director

Jennifer Lang,
President & Executive Director

We thank our Equine Alumni for their dedication to our program and wish a long and happy retirement.  We will always remember you!

Charlie Chaplin, “Charlie”, is a chestnut quarter horse gelding who stands 15.1 hands tall.

 

He recently retired in early 2022 at the age of 23.  Charlie has a heart of gold and is known for his kindness. The volunteers and riders all loved how delightful he was to work with, and anyone who has gotten to know him has been easily charmed by this gentle soul.  

We wish him a wonderful retirement with his owner, Dr. Bess Darrow, and we will never forget all he has given to Grace.

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A Grace Under the Oaks favorite, Dominick, retired in October 2023. He has loved working with our students as much as our students loved working with him.

 

His kind, gentle disposition and agreeable manner made him a perfect member of the Grace Under the Oaks Equine team, even for our littlest riders. 

Dominick is owned and loved by Under the Oaks Farm owners Marty and Mary Fiorentino, right next door to where we hold lessons, so our riders can visit him!!!

What a Doll, “Dolly”, is a sweet paint mare who stands 14.1 hands tall. Dolly has taught many new riders over the years One of our inaugural herd members, Dolly retired in September, 2022, at the age of 29, and will be greatly missed as an active member of our program.

 

All of the volunteers say Dolly was one of the most patient, and gentle horses they have ever met, and was beloved by all our riders. Dolly specialized in taking care of smaller riders and helped give them confidence in the saddle.  

 

Sadly, we lost dear Dolly in the summer of 2023 and Jackson, her dear donkey companion for 15 years, is adapting to life without his best friend. Dollys impact on us all is indelible.

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