Odessa-based farm offers equine therapy to give people much-needed mental break

Posted at 4:24 PM, May 29, 2020

ODESSA, Fla. — During these tough times, we could all use a mental vacation every once in a while. For some people, that means grabbing a saddle and going horseback riding.

Bucs linebacker Devin White owns several horses, and he uses riding as a way to escape from the every day grind.

"It just kinda gets me away from the world," White said, via video chat. "I don’t get distracted. It just let’s me really find myself and think about how blessed I am, how grateful I am, how thankful I am to be in the position to be able to play at highest level of football."

Riding can also be a form of healing. Dr. Edie Dopking is the founder of Quantum Leap Farm, a place that provides equine assisted therapy. She's one of the people who believes riding can be some of the best medicine.

"One of the things we like to focus on is abilities instead of disabilities," Dopking said. "I feel like that’s the real value in the therapeutic riding."

Dr. Dopking helps participants conquer physical and mental challenges with an assist from her horses and staff.

"I think when people acquire a disability or they’ve lived with one all their life, they have a head full of 'I can't.' And when they try something new and novel like this and realize that they can do it, they start getting a little more adventuresome," she said.

COVID-19 has slowed down the action at the farm, but it hasn't stopped its ability to connect patients with some of their best friends. Car parades and movie nights help keep the bond strong.

"We took some of the horses in the parking lot. They were eating carrots out of the cars and drooling down the side, and everybody was giggling and laughing," Dr. Dopking said, alongside Ariel, one of the Farm's horses. "We have really missed our participants and all that laughter and the fun that we usually have around here."

The plan for Quantam Leap Farm is much like that of the NHL. It's going to open in phases with regard to health and safety so they can eventually get back to normal operations.