published Friday, May 7th, 2010

Equestrian therapy

By Dorothy Foster

Correspondent

DELANO, Tenn. -- Griz and Leslie Jones thought they'd be riding motorcycles forever.

Clad in black leather regalia, and Griz with his long, white beard, they relished the road trips on their Harley-Davidsons and their work with the Christian Motorcycle Association, attending rallies and helping other cyclists in need.

But when Mr. Jones, 62, a construction worker, was injured and unable to ride his cycle, they were forced to re-evaluate and come up with new plans.

But those plans kept them riding -- horses, this time -- and still helping people.

The couple bought a 10-acre farm in Delano, formed a therapeutic equestrian program in 2008 and Leap of Faith Farm sprang forth.

"You know, there's nothing so good for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse," Mr. Jones said.

The therapeutic riding program is for ages 5 and up. Its intention is to help people physically and emotionally to set goals and achieve them by riding and working with the horses, said Mrs. Jones, 52.

Working with individuals and groups, the Joneses have started a therapy group with 10 juveniles each month, children who are on probation after getting in trouble with the law. They also work with veterans groups.

"People kept dropping into our laps," said Mrs. Jones, whose nickname is Stitch.

Ed Ditto, whose 5-year-old daughter Cassia takes lessons at the farm, said it's amazing to watch his daughter master horseback riding.

LEAP OF FAITH FARM

* Location: Delano, Tenn.

* Size: 10 acres

* The Joneses purchased it: 2006

* Equestrian program began: 2008

"Griz and Stitch are helping her develop a talent she didn't even know she had ... and developing joy and discipline in the process," he said.

After Mr. Jones' injury, the couple moved from California to Tennessee to be around grandchildren. Both of them had ridden horses as children, and Mrs. Jones took it up again.

In 2006, they bought the farm in Delano and started buying horses. Once there, they heard that the Service Chaplaincy of Veterans was organizing a rafting trip to the Ocoee River for military people going to or returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Asked if they would host a dinner for the veterans at Leap of Faith Farm, the Joneses agreed. When the vets arrived, some of them had never been around a real horse before.

"Here were military people who carried weapons, but were afraid to touch these animals," Mrs. Jones said. "So we walked them through their fear."

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