Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center marks major milestone with new facility
A group of caring individuals in Santa Barbara organized 4-H Hearts in the fall of 1984 through the 4-H youth program, a nationwide organization dating back to 1912.
4-H Hearts provided adaptive horseback riding to individuals with disabilities.
Since then, Hearts not only got a new name — Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center — it has grown its programs from two lesson horses and a handful of students to serve more than 200 individuals each year with a herd of 18 horses.
Last month, the center completed another significant milestone with the opening of a new site that includes a main arena and second smaller arena, round pens, 19 covered horse stalls, two large turnouts and a hay barn.
The new facility is located on property adjacent to the current one at 4420 Calle Real in Santa Barbara, and both share the same entrance road.
“The arenas are where we offer therapeutic lessons to contribute positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioral well-being of people with a wide range of disabilities,” said Morgan Kastenek, director of development and marketing at the center. “We also offer the Equine Services for Heroes Program to honor U.S. veterans by giving them an opportunity to build camaraderie, be of service to fellow veterans and the community and to experience a challenging physical activity.
“Our services are open to any person with special needs who can benefit from therapeutic horsemanship. Lessons are individually designed to meet each participant’s need and ability and are consistent with predetermined goals that are established in partnership with parents, caregivers, physicians and other therapists,” said Mrs. Kastenek.
Students are enrolled at Hearts on an annual basis. The center provides 45 weeks of riding per year, and tuition fees for 45 weekly lessons are prorated across the 12 months of the year.
Potential participants must be at least 5 years old. All riders are assessed initially and placed in the appropriate class based on their abilities.
“What’s really great about the smaller arena is that we can run two programs simultaneously. We only had one at the old site,” Mrs. Kastenek told the News-Press.
The covered horse stalls, constructed of steel, are brand new, and so are two large turnouts for the horses to socialize and exercise during the day.
Mrs. Kastenek was especially excited about the hay barn, where hay and supplements are stored.
“Everything to keep the horses healthy and happy,” she said.
The barn and round pens were dismantled and moved from the old site.
Construction of the facility began after the site was prepped in late February. Contractors were FCP Barns and Buildings in Wildomar and Clear Construction in Ventura.
“We opened in mid-October. It was a long and involved process. The horses had to be acclimated to their new surroundings,” said Mrs. Kastenek, who was born and raised in Oak Park, Ill., near Chicago.
She moved to Santa Barbara in 2008 to attend UCSB, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2012.
Before she began working for Hearts in 2017, Mrs. Kastenek worked with different nonprofits in Santa Barbara.
“I grew up riding horses and am thrilled to be a part of the Hearts family, where I can be around horses every day and help support individuals of all abilities. I am passionate about fundraising and advocating for the mission of Hearts.”
In her role as development and marketing manager, she assisted the board of directors in its capital campaign to fund the new project.
“Our goal was to raise $1,000,000, and we still have $300,000 to go,” said Mrs. Kastenek. “In the meantime, riders and parents who come to Hearts are excited with how clean everything looks and how functional and accessible it is compared to the old site.”
FYIFor more information about the Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center or to donate funds, contact Morgan Kastenek at 805-364-5201 or firstname.lastname@example.org or go to heartsriding.org.