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The Horses of Grace

What a Doll, “Dolly”, is a 28-year-old paint mare who stands 14.1 hands tall.  Dolly used to be a hunter/jumper pony and has taught many new riders over the years.  All of the volunteers say Dolly is one of the most patient, and gentle horses they have ever met, so naturally, she’s really good at her job.  Dolly loves getting to work with our smaller riders and help give them confidence in the saddle.  If you come out to meet her, you’ll also get to meet her friend Jackson. He’s a Donkey that she met about 15 years ago and haven’t been separated since. They even share a stall!  Dolly is owned and leased to the program by property owners, Marty and Mary Fiorentino.

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Radical, “Rad”, is a 20-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.

Charlie Chaplin, “Charlie”, is a 22-year-old chestnut quarter horse gelding who stands 15.1 hands tall. Charlie gets his name from his ability to grow a full mustache on his upper lip! Charlie has a heart of gold and is the kindest horse on the team. All of the volunteers love how quiet and respectful he is to everyone he meets and any who gets to know him is quickly charmed by this gentle soul.  He, too, loves to go for strolls down the trail with his “brother” Radical. Charlie and Rad have been together for 10 years and have quite the brotherly bond. That’s right, Charlie is also owned and leased to the program by Dr. Bess Darrow. 

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“Lilly” is a 17-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.

 

After graduation, Jennifer worked at Atlantic Coast HS as the 

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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 along side them.”  - Jennifer Lang

Brooke Grove,
Instructor

PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning

Brooke Grove has been an avid equestrian her whole life and is so excited to share her love of horses with the community. Brooke has her BA from Mount St. Mary’s University in Communications and her Executive Nonprofit Leadership and Management Certificate from the University of Notre Dame.

 

She is a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning and Mentor. Brooke also serves on the PATH Intl. Standards Review Task Force. Brooke has had the opportunity to study under various FEI riders such as Erin Brinkman, Steuart Pittman, Suzanne Graham, and Michelle Warro.

 

Through her training, she fell in love with the sport of dressage and was selected to participate in the USEF Para Dressage Coach Certification Program and is excited to share

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her passion and knowledge for the sport with her students. Brooke tells people that horses are her obsession, but equine therapy is her passion. She feels so blessed to be serving the St. Johns area.

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

Board of Directors

Mary Baer Fiorentino, Chair
Betsy Dixon, Vice Chair
Kathy Ornstein, Secretary
Ellen Bloom, Treasurer
Mary Ann Callahan


Jennifer Lang
President & Executive Director