About Stirrups ‘n Strides

Where Passion Meets Purpose!

After being involved in therapeutic riding for more than three decades, Betty Gray continues to see new avenues for the healing power of the horse. In 1983, Gray joined Peg Wallace to create Marion Therapeutic Riding Association. When she wrapped up a 10-year stint as MTRA executive director (1997-2006), Gray established Stirrups ‘n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center. Based on Gray and her husband Wayne’s 30-acre Citra farm, Stirrups ‘n Strides opened in January 2007. The 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. PATH International promotes equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs, including children, adults, veterans and active-duty military personnel.

Our Mission is to dedicated our time to transforming lives through therapeutic horseback riding, carriage driving, equine-assisted therapy, and Special Olympics, Stirrups ‘n Strides welcomes individuals facing physical, mental, or emotional challenges. Our commitment is to enhance their quality of life through the art of horsemanship, friendly competition, and the remarkable healing power of horses. Discover the transformative potential of therapeutic horseback riding, a profound tool fostering healing, growth, and thriving for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Through this unique experience, participants forge connections with our equine companions, glean wisdom from their natural instincts, and cultivate new skills and insights.

We firmly believe in the multi-faceted healing capacities of our equine partners

Improving Mental Health

Therapeutic horseback riding offers solace for individuals grappling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and various mental health challenges.

Enhancing Physical Health

Immerse yourself in the world of equine therapy to refine balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility. Experience the alleviation of pain and the expansion of your range of motion.

Nurturing Emotional Health

Our horses emanate a calming and therapeutic presence, aiding individuals in managing emotions, building self-confidence, and establishing trust.

Developing Social Skills

Engage in positive and supportive interactions through horse riding, fostering essential social skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership.

Meet Our Team!

Founder, Board Member, Registered Instructor & Level 2 Driving Instructor, Executive Director

“After my daughter, Kathy, was kicked in the head by a horse in 1980 I helped start the 1st therapeutic horseback riding program in Marion County in 1983. I became a certified therapeutic riding and carriage driving instructor and started promoting therapeutic riding in our community. People needed to learn about the “miracles” that can happen to children and adults that live with disabilities after riding a horse. After seeing what riding did for my daughter, this became my #1 goal in life.”

“In 2007, I opened Stirrups ‘n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center at Hi-Time Farm in Orange Lake. In the 9 years we have been in existence, we have grown to 15 horses, 3 arenas and over 100 clients. Therapeutic riding has become my 1st love; I want to help as many people as possible with disabilities to overcome their challenges in life. I sadly had to give up my training & show barn in order to continue to grow Stirrups ‘n Strides, but this is now where my heart lies, and I have a very special daughter that gives me the strength to continue on this wondrous path that helps make miracles happen.”

Stephanie Bauman

Board Member, Treasurer

Driven by a desire to make a positive impact in her community, Stephanie joined Stirrups ‘n Strides as a volunteer, finding a unique way to combine her organizational skills and love for animals. Since then, her dedication has grown, leading her to become a vital member of the organization, serving both as a board member and the current treasurer.

Prior to her involvement with Stirrups ‘n Strides, Stephanie built a distinguished career in in the US Army. Her work experience includes contract management and project management, with an educational background in legal studies, physics, and archaeology. These skills, combined with her strong work ethic and meticulous attention to detail, have proven invaluable in her role as treasurer. She ensures the organization’s financial health and stability through effective organization of information and management of financial records.

Beyond her contributions as a board member and treasurer, Stephanie is deeply invested in the mission of Stirrups ‘n Strides. She is passionate about supporting the organization’s work in empowering individuals through therapeutic riding. This passion is evident in her proactive approach to taking on responsibilities, including her recent contributions in managing the organization’s charity events.

Board Member

Rebecca Moore (Becca) first volunteered with Stirrups ‘n Strides in September of 2009 and was soon helping every ride day, working with horses and riders.  In March of 2011, she was asked to join the Board. Becca brought with her a varied work history, ranging from oversight of customer investments in her hometown bank, to being co-owner of a small business with her husband, etc., etc.

Becca was born and raised in Iowa, and there she learned a strong work ethic, and the value of a job well-done.  These have served her well in her various positions within the Board.  She is currently serving as President of the Board, and Comptroller, she has served twelve consecutive years on the Board.

As well as her responsibilities with Stirrups ‘n Strides she has been married to husband, Jerry, for 59 years and counting!  They have had three children, eight grandchildren, and six (soon to be seven) great-grandchildren.

Other activities that Becca enjoys are reading and writing her memoirs for her family!

Becca is proud of her affiliation with Stirrups ‘n Strides and has enjoyed helping with the growth and success of the Program.  She is hoping to see the covered arena completed fully, and to help promote responsible growth for a strong future for all the people, young & old, that benefit from “The Power of the Horse”.

“I love that Stirrups ‘n Strides helps people grow and become more invested in life! This is true not only for the riders, but also the volunteers and instructors. That there are horses makes it that much more exciting!”

Board Member

Brian Rousseau was born in St. Petersburg Florida in early 70’s, I grew up on a small horse ranchette in Pinellas Park, Florida where my mother instilled the core values of caring for animals, compassion and caring for all people. Leaving home after high school to start my own family and career by joining the U.S. Army, I have had long blessed military career where I made Soldiers and their families my first and upmost responsibility. Retiring in 2016 from the U.S. Army, my family moved to Puerto Rico where I learned about therapeutic riding and became a volunteer at West Coast Ecuestre Inc.  After earthquakes in south of Puerto Rico, we made the tough decision to move back to Florida in the beginning of 2020.  After moving to the FT Myers area, I started looking for a therapeutic program to volunteer at. I quickly found Special Equestrians and a resent message sent out for volunteers to help with their annual Ride-A-Thon fundraiser.  While volunteering with Special Equestrians I expanded my knowledge of therapeutic riding program, horse care and working as volunteer coordinator for a short time. During my time at Special Equestrians, I had the great opportunity to volunteer in their Driving program working with Mike Freeman who is a very accomplished driving instructor. In 2022 we made another big family decision and moved our little farm to Reddick, FL where I was so grateful to have found Stirrups ‘n Strides. From my first day volunteering with Stirrups ‘n Strides, I knew I had found another great program to volunteer with.

Board Member

Graduate from the University of South Florida in Tampa became a Nursing Home Administrator.

From the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area originally, enjoyed working with the elderly for more than 20 years in Pinellas County and an additional 10 years in Ocala, FL.

Being in the health care field, I believe in the benefits of therapy and get inspired when I watch the program of Stirrups N Strides.

An active member of the Ocala Rotary Club. I enjoy volunteering and trying to help the community.

Board Member

Registered Instructor

Debbie was born in Orlando, FL and grew up in Grenada, MS.  She had horses as a teenager and young adult.  Debbie moved back to Florida after the passing of her mother in 1999.  Debbie started volunteering in 2010 as a side walker where she quickly fell in love with the program.  Betty encouraged her to help teach the class with her and soon she talked to her about becoming one of the next instructors.  With the help of Betty and Stacey Spence, Debbie learned to ride English.  In 2013, she became an instructor and has come to love being at Stirrups ‘n Strides.  “To see the change in the riders right before your eyes is more rewarding than I can say.  I encourage anyone to come and volunteer and try it.”

PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Laney grew up in Western Pennsylvania close by her grandparents’ farm. Her first ride on a horse was on her grandfather’s draft horse, Jack. She got her own pony at the age of 12. And so began her love of horses.

She earned a BSBA from University of Florida and an MBA from University of Tampa. She pursued a career in market research and development in the Tampa Bay area and Atlanta, before taking a three year break to travel solo around the world. Upon her return, she settled in San Francisco and worked in the customer service department for United Airlines for 15 years. Laney and her husband, Jim, have been married for 24 years. Bi-coastal for many years, they moved from California to Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, FL full time 10 years ago.

Along with a love of horses and equine assisted therapy, Laney is also an avid golfer, an interest she shares with her husband Jim. She is on the course rating team for Florida State Golf Association as well as the rating panel for Golfweek Magazine.

Laney began volunteering at Stirrups ‘n Strides in 2010 once they settled in Lecanto. She has been an enthusiastic volunteer at many equestrian competitions such as eventing, dressage and combined driving events. Laney joined the Board of Directors in June, 2013. In March, 2015, Laney became a PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor.

“Knowing the effectiveness of the program at Stirrups ‘n Strides, participating on the Board presents an opportunity to help grow the program and assure its future sustainability.”

Other Members that are the beacon of inspiration and vital component to Stirrups ‘n Strides.

Certified Instructors

  • Chris Dove
  • Sonya Jones
  • Diane Mathieson – Program Manager at Hillcrest School Location
  • Robert Buchanan
  • Stacey Spence

Instructors in Training

  • Brandi Lashinski – Program Assistant
  • Lilly Stidham
  • Lindsey Palm
  • Lisa Winburn

**Stirrups ‘n Strides offers mentoring opportunity for instructor certification!

  • Susan Bean – Horse and Barn Caretaker
  • Anita Gossett – Volunteer Coordinator (Recruitment & Training)

Stories & Testimonies

Kathy Gray's Story

At 3 years old, Kathy was kicked in the head by a horse! Doctors said she had a 50% chance of survival and didn’t know if she would ever walk again. Before she could even sit up again, Betty Gray had her on a horse. As time progressed Kathy was able to gain strength, coordination and balance. Even though she is still having some paralysis on her left side, Kathy has been doing therapeutic horseback riding for over 40 years. Betty founded Stirrups ‘n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center Inc. in 2007 with her late husband Wayne Gray. Kathy inspires all the riders at Stirrups ‘n Strides by saying “if I can do it, you can do it.” Kathy, is my miracle, says Betty her mother, and she inspires me every day.

Sean Simpson's Story

Sean Simpson, a young man with autism, struggled with challenging behavior until he found solace in horse riding at Stirrups ‘n Strides. Initially uncooperative, Sean’s weekly riding lessons became a source of joy, transforming his attitude and behavior at home and school. Encouraged by director Betty Gray, Sean’s progress was remarkable; he went from needing multiple volunteers for safety to riding independently. Overcoming doubts, Sean participated in horse shows and, to everyone’s surprise, excelled. In a national championship in Kansas City, competing against older and more experienced riders, Sean clinched the Grand Championship, bringing tears of pride to his family. His journey, marked by improved behavior and unexpected accomplishments, showcased the transformative power of equine therapy at Stirrups ‘n Strides.

Kathy Collin's Story

Kathy Collins who had Multiple Sclerosis wrote:  Stirrups ‘n Strides means so much to me I wish I could do more to help.  You’ve been a big help to me especially with my legs, my Dr. never thought I could stand up, let alone walk again.  He is framing an 8X10 picture of me riding and another of me in a wheelchair and hanging them in his office.  The first time I convinced him to sign my medical papers in order for me to ride I think he expected me to quit because I also have had a disc problem for many years prior along with the MS and Diabetes.  I hadn’t taken a normal step since before 1980 and when the Dr. saw me walk into his office it blew his mind.  Again thanks so very much.  Kathy.

This was written by a long time rider who has since passed away, but Stirrups ‘n Strides gave her something to look forward to every week and helped her regain her strength in her legs so she could walk again!

Rider & Parent Testimonies

Riders –

  • “We Love to Ride at Stirrups ‘n Strides!”
  • “I love riding! It gives me a challenge.”
  • “When I ride my disability disappears and I am like everybody else.”
  • “I can do it!” 

Parents –

  • “With the help of the compassion of the staff, as well as the eagerness of the volunteers, has improved my son’s physical abilities as well as built confidence, strength, and independence.”
  • “I was determined that my child was going to have a great life.”
  • “My daughter is proud to tell everyone she meets how she can ride horses. I am so grateful she has this opportunity and continues to thrive.”

Instructors & Volunteer Testimonies

Instructors –

  • “Whenever I see a rider smile, I know I have done something right.”
  • “We focus on their gifts and are rewarded by their progress.”
  • “Our Stirrups ‘n Strides “family” is a unique combination of individuals, horses, and ponies, working together and believing that anything and everything is possible.”

Volunteers – 

  • “I love to watch them grow on the horses. The parents are thrilled with the child responds.”
  • “I love to watch their spirit and motivation. Everyday is a new miracle.”
  • “After retirement, it gave me back my life.”
Say “Hay” To Our Horses!

Many of our amazing equine companions came to us from a previous “profession.” Here, they have a new opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who come here for therapeutic riding, equine therapy and equine assisted learning. Each has their own special “magic” to share.  The horses receive tons of loving care from volunteers and participants. We are so thankful for our therapy horses and for all who contribute to their care.

Citra/Orange Horses
Hillcrest School Horses

See a wonderful equine your fond of? Want to sponsor the care for the horse? >Click Here to learn how you can sponsor a horse!

Dont forget to check out our loving Donkeys too!

Our “Sponsor A Horse” Program is a way that you can get involved in helping to provide a great deal of care that keeps our horse friends happy, and healthy while they are hard at work helping others thrive, please consider sponsoring a horse!