Linda Fazio, executive director and certified instructor at the therapeutic riding facility, located at 3170 Chariot Court, Manchester, said the Aug. 26 show is open to girls of every experience level.
Chariot Riders partnered with the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore a few years ago and their Monmouth County facility is on Girl Scouts property in Farmingdale, according to Fazio.
"We do programs for them, which offsets our rent," she said. "We do clinics, therapeutic riding and camp."
Fazio said between the two facilities, Chariot Riders, a nonprofit accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, serves 150 to 200 people each week. They provide therapeutic horseback riding for physically and mentally challenged children and adults, helping them with their balance, physical therapy, education and general well-being.
"We have a child with cerebral palsy who comes twice a week, working on his balance, speech and social skills," Fazio said. "But it's also fun."
Clients are referred to Chariot Riders through facilities such as Children's Specialized Hospital or word of mouth, and must have no contraindications to riding.
Fazio said the riders usually become attached to a particular horse, such as Jamie, a thoroughbred who has made a difference in a lot of people's lives. A retired Toms River teacher who developed five types of cancer always rode Jamie.
"She was involved first as a rider, then a volunteer and went through equine-assisted learning training," said Fazio. "Twelve months ago she passed away. Quite a few of our volunteers started as students. The pleasure that gives them, now helping others less fortunate than themselves."
Volunteers and the horses are the backbone of the organization, she said. They have 24 horses between the two centers, all of which were donated to them and are now living out their second lives helping adults and children.
"They come through local trainers who ask if we can use a horse because it can't be used for what it was trained for," Fazio said. "We like all horses to be comfortable and happy in the work they're doing."
All horses are screened before coming to the program to ensure they are healthy, low maintenance and very balanced or they won't help the clients, according to Fazio.
A new set of clients for Chariot Riders is military veterans, who may participate in the Horses for Heroes program. Fazio said the program started to assist veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, but they assist all former service members with physical or cognitive disorders.
"The results have been amazing," said Fazio. "We do not charge a fee to any vet who wants to come to the program."
The Manchester Township facility has been open since 1989 and includes an indoor ring, four outdoor riding areas and a 3-acre sensory trail that leads down to a lake. The property also includes the house where Fazio lives.
"I'm lucky that my hobby is my job," she said. "Not many can say that."
Fazio began riding at 11 years old in England, moving to the U.S. 28 years ago. She taught at a riding academy in Howell and then was introduced to therapeutic riding.
"I was taken aback at how the horses worked for the riders and wanted to learn more," she said.
She eventually was led to Chariot Riders, which operates through client fees and donations.
"We're here because we want to be and that's what keeps the operation going," said Fazio. "If we keep the farms, the horses have a place to go."
Chariot Riders offers therapeutic riding, equine assisted learning, recreational riding, riding lessons, classes, scouting badges, class trips, birthday parties and horse shows.
To register for the Girl Scout Horse Show, visit www.chariotriders.org/HorseShow2012.pdf. To volunteer at Chariot Riders, go to www.chariotriders.org/howyoucanhelp_volunteer.html.