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. Operated by the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation 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 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 “Horses for Handicapped” program has received local and national media attention.