California Foundation For Children, Ex-Racehorses Turns COVID-19 Home Time Into Video Project

by | 03.17.2020 | 12:50pm

With most kids out of school indefinitely due to the coronavirus, there's a need to keep them occupied. The Square Peg Foundation, which employs ex-racehorses as therapy animals for children on the autism spectrum, has come up with a novel way to engage them.

“We got the idea to have participants help us produce 1 to 2 minute films on each of the animals at Square Peg,” said Joell Dunlap, founder of the group based in Half Moon Bay, Calif. “And what is coming back, through the eyes of the volunteers, the instructors, the parents and the kids is something really special.”

Dunlap, whose son inspired her to establish Square Peg in 2004, has grown the organization to two facilities and 20 horses, all of whom are off-track Thoroughbreds provided through CARMA, the non-profit dedicated to rehabilitation, retraining and/or retirement for horses that have raced in California. Square Peg is fully accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA).

“We've specifically trained with classical dressage trainers – namely the Valenca family of Lisbon Portugal, Debra and Dominique Barbier of Barbier Farms in Healdsburg, Calif., and with Christian Bachinger of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.,” said Dunlap. “Through these teachers, our horses have excelled in being physically and emotionally balanced enough to be able to serve families that are in crisis.”

Dunlap said for the next two years, Square Peg will be the exclusive provider of equine therapy for the San Mateo County Health Department. In addition to CARMA and the TAA, the organization has received support from the Stronach Group, Thoroughbred Charities of America and others in the horse racing industry. Click here to donate to Square Peg through Coastside Gives.

“Through this work, I've realized every childhood dream I ever had,” Dunlap said. “To be able to train amazing horses capable of tremendous and beautiful things, I've traveled the world teaching and learning and connecting with people who love horses and want to serve their communities.

“I'm humbled every day by the horses and by the amazing families we get to work with and we have assembled a world class team of employees that inspire me every day.”

Watch some of the videos the kids of Square Peg helped produce below, as well as a video explaining more about the foundation.

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