Our mission is to provide therapeutic horseback riding activities for children and adults afflicted with disabilities across a wide spectrum of physical and mental handicaps in Oldsmar Florida. Horseback riding activities include recreational riding, lessons, camps, Special Olympics, riding events and challenge shows. We also provide networking, support and social group settings with the goal of further improving the quality of life for our riders.
Bakas Equestrian Center has been a highly successful program since 1987. It offers horseback riding to children and adults and specializes in those with disabilities including: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and all Cognitive, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Operated by the Hillsborough County Conservation and Land Management Department, the program provides group riding lessons, trail rides, summer camps, and special events. Physically impaired and developmentally delayed riders have the opportunity to compete in Challenged horse shows and Special Olympics. Riding provides them with increased self esteem, balance, coordination and improved attention span. Speech and social interaction, trunk control and spacial awareness are also enhanced. All types of disabilities are served, including some that are severe and profound.
Horseback riding sessions with experienced and PATH certified instructors are offered at the John W. Bakas, Jr. Equestrian Center. The original center was established in 1987 to provide facilities needed for this special program. Due to the program’s success and growth, Bakas needed to expand. In 2001 a new state of the art center was donated and built on a new site. Bakas now boasts a thirteen stall barn, covered arena, five outdoor paddocks, maintenance building and an administration complex including offices, accessible restrooms, a classroom and full kitchen.
The essential horses, tack and supplies have been provided by generous donations from caring citizens, businesses and community groups. Various fund-raisers are held for the center throughout the year.
Disabled children from Hillsborough County Schools take field trips to the Bakas Center, where riding is available year round. Parent and physician forms are required for disabled riders ages four and older.
The Bakas Center is a Premeir Accredited Center and and active member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH). The Bakas “Horses for Handicapped” program has received local and national media attention.