My introduction to SPIRIT began in 2014. Years later and countless stories of sharing, caring, personal growth, service to the community, life lessons and lots of love still abound! This is such a unique program with much to offer for anyone needing to benefit from the lessons we can all learn from our 2 legged participants and volunteers and our 4 legged friends and members of the herd.
I have been a Spirit volunteer for at least the last 10 years. Although I'm no longer able to ride, I thoroughly enjoy being around horses! I started out mucking out stalls and cleaning the paddock. What i noticed on those cold/wet/freezing or hot/humid/wet days was the dedication of the young volunteers. There was an experienced volunteer assigned to each "team" of groomers, feeders, general caregivers of each horse. Not once in the years that I have been volunteering have i ever heard one of the young volunteers complain about being too cold or too hot. It's apparent that they enjoy what they are doing and building lasting friendships. Spirit is grooming and building the leaders of tomorrow. Spirit is all-welcoming to everyone! Ddda has set a wonderful example for Spirit volunteers to follow!
I look forward to helping out where I'm physically able. I thoroughly enjoy meeting, the fellowship and working with the many volunteers Spirit has.
The comments that I have heard from parents regarding the benefits that their child(ren) receive have all been positive. Spirit is a major asset to the community.
I plan on being an active volunteer as long s I'm physically able to participate.
The SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program is well known in Fairfax County for helping improve individual lives by fostering healing (both mental and physical) and teaching life skills. But SPIRIT also offers residents opportunities to meet a more personal goal--giving back to the community they live in. Residents can volunteer to help with riding lessons, office work, fundraising, horse care, farm maintenance, and community and student events. SPIRIT enables retirees to share their knowledge and work skills; high school students can meet community service requirements; and Boy Scouts can create projects to become Eagle Scouts. Parents of students and even students themselves volunteer their time to SPIRIT. When volunteers support SPIRIT, they say they gain a sense of community and accomplishment.
SPIRIT is one of those rare places where individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities can come together to create a better community.
My teenage daughter has worked as a volunteer at SPIRIT for the last six years and has experienced tremendous personal growth (maturity, empathy, and a sense of responsibility) through these experiences. She has developed a strong sense of service to the community and has also learned leadership skills as she has matured from one of the youngest volunteers to now being one of the older leaders/teachers. We are so grateful to have SPIRIT in our neighborhood for both the services provided to clients as well as the community service opportunities provided for young volunteers!
SPIRIT has been helping this community grow children who are confident, strong and caring for over twelve years. Each year SPIRIT's outreach to agencies serving families and children has grown which has enabled those needing SPIRIT's services to receive them. The community recognizes the positive impact Equine Assisted Learning, Therapeutic Riding, Psychotherapy and Horsemanship workshops have on the physical, emotional and life skills of children and teens benefitting from the programs.
The SPIRIT staff and volunteers are well trained and very caring of those they work with. At lessons you see smiles, hear giggling from the children riding and their parents and families watching. SPIRIT offers a wonderful positive enviornment for all who attend the services.
The horses of SPIRIT are all gentle, well trained and loved by all who ride or care for them. All are rescued by or donated to the program and given the opportunity for second or third careers serving their community. They are a herd and are given the opportunity for free roaming in their fields and stalls. A luxury life for horses in todays world!
LOVE LOVE LOVE SPIRIT! This lovely gentle therapeutic riding program is ideal for your children of all abilities and new young riders. The program is run by experienced professional instructors and supported by trained caring volunteers who focus on their young riders wellbeing and positive experience. Many of the riders with SPIRIT have made huge strides developmentally, emotionally and socially. Watching these children thrive is one of the great gifts the program offers it's staff and volunteers.
The other gift is the ability to interact with the SPIRIT horses. These gentle beings know their role. When saddled and readied for work they are focused, quiet and steadfast in their duties. All of these wonderful horses have been rescued, donated and given a second chance to serve their community.
SPIRIT is a beautiful example of making Urban Horsemanship work. Sitting in the middle of Fairfax County's Frying Pan Farm Park enables the community to see horses at work and how to appropriately care for them. When visiting the Park make sure to take a peek at the SPIRIT facilities!
SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program embraces the principles of community, inclusivity and equality. SPIRIT values the uniqueness of all individuals and we are committed to the ongoing practices of listening, learning and growing. We will continue providing a welcoming and safe experience for everyone. SPIRIT wants to continue being an active part of the work that creates the compassionate society we envision.
Our Mission is to foster healing and to teach life skills through interactions between humans and horses.
While I am skeptical about the "magical" properties of horses, I cannot deny the good that this program does to everyone it touches. I don't know much about the experience of the riders, though I know that every one of them comes out more whole than they came in. What I do know is that the program also has a profound effect on the volunteers. Learning to interact with the horses and the riders teaches life skills and provides a place of zen that is much needed these days. All in all, this is a magical program that does great things for everyone that it touches.
I am heavily involved in this organization. During the daily programming, when a student works with a horse, you can see faces light up like never before! SPIRIT offers both mounted and unmounted lessons, as well as horsemanship workshops, psychotherapy, and volunteer trainings. They have an excellent community relationship with schools, local businesses, Parks, and scout groups. Kudos to a job well done by SPIRIT and all its students and volunteers!
My little sister works as an EAL for this program and she has loved it so much. She dedicates her time 6 days a week because she loves the program that much. As helpful as it is for the kids in it, it is just as important for the kids that are helping to run it.
I love coming out to Spirit to help with the therapeutic riding sessions. Watching kids light up, and seeing them become more and more independent over time, is inspiring. This organization puts helping others first.
Spirit is a true joy - for students, volunteers, staff. Everyone is so supportive and focused on making sure every lesson is safe, that the riders are appropriately challenged, and that we all learn and grow each time we're part of Spirit's work.
Everything about SPIRIT truly comes from the heart -- the people, the horses, the programs.
Seeing the smiles of the riders as they enjoy their time with the horses each week is simply one of the best experiences.
Spirit is a wonderful place where Horses meet People.
I have been with Spirit for nearly a year. I enjoy working with horses and helping with the day to day office operations.
The volunteers and staff are friendly and will do everything to help and make you feel welcome.
The Spirit Open Equestrian Program has brought our family closer within the community we have lived in for years. The mission of the program was started to serve special needs children/students through equine assisted therapies. To be applauded, the vast majority of the therapy horses have been rescued, primarily from kill-pens. The program offers so much more. Community teens can volunteer to earn required school service hours. They receive the benefit of learning horsemanship, experiences with those in the programs, and the joy of being outside. Our family has volunteered for many years now. We have found this to be so much more. Summer weekly camp programs are also offered through Fairfax County Parktakes. The program also serves our Veterans. Spirit Open Equestrian Program’s mission is amazing and benefits our entire urban community.
Spirit is a wonderful program that is a great asset to our local community. Spirit provides a safe and an inclusive environment for their students, their families and volunteers. I am very proud to be a part of this organization and to continue to watch their growth and development within the community.
Our daughter began volunteering as an Equine Assisted Learner seven years ago. At first it was wonderful to observe how much joy and maturity she experienced from helping the therapeutic riding students. Over time, however, it became clear that not only was she benefitting from assisting those less fortunate than herself, but also the SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program became her own personal therapy. It has been her "go to" outlet for relieving emotional stress and pent up physical energy. Therefore, she has grown with the SPIRIT program beyond our expectations. She and we, her family, have been blessed by SPIRIT on multiple levels. For this, we are truly grateful.
SPIRIT is a remarkable program in every way. The positive energy of the staff and volunteers with a focus on each individual client's safety, needs, healing and growth makes this a sanctuary for anyone who participates or visits.
SPIRIT is fantastic! I was introduced to this wonderful organization by a friend and I have loved visiting from time to time! Each time I have been there I have been so impressed with their dedication and professionalism towards their riders and their horses. They are very organized! The instructors make sure the riders have a safe and nurturing environment to grow and learn in. All volunteers are fully present and committed to offering the riders the best experience during the therapy and instructional sessions. They are located in a beautiful setting easily accessible from surrounding communities. I have nothing but the best to say for them!
I can't say enough about SPIRIT . Dada and her volunteers put their hearts and souls into this program. SPIRIT has changed the lives of so many in such a positive way. The staff are trained professionals with great compassion and a genuine love for what they do. While the program begins to expand and reach out into other communities, the volunteers never lose sight of the children under their care. SPIRIT is a win-win for everyone (the children, the horses, the volunteers and the community)!
I am immensely proud of SPIRIT and our community. This is the only organization I’ve seen where every participant - 2-legged or 4-legged - leaves with more than they came.
Our riders are amazing - they grow every day, both in their riding capabilities and horsemanship as well as their maturity and independence.
Our team and volunteers show up to give, every single day. For a group built mostly on people donating their time, we have mature processes to keep everyone safe and engaged, while being good stewards of our resources and keeping our operating costs to a minimum. As a volunteer, myself, I feel like I get more from this program than the riders do!
To top it off, 12 of our 14 horses are rescues. Watching them work with our therapeutic riders and psychotherapy clients is awe inspiring, and demonstrates the gift that these creatures have. When our herd isn’t working, they typically have free reign between their open stalls and the pasture.
Please - come check us out and see for yourself!
SPIRIT is a wonderful program, all the way around! The staff and volunteers are very welcoming and supportive and always happy and eager to help the participants learn and HAVE FUN! The EAL students are simply remarkable, instant friends to everyone they meet, no matter age or ability - when I participated, these teens taught me so much! You can see how much each participant LOVES to be at SPIRIT and how wonderful they feel when they are achieving their goals. And then there are the horses....so many of them were saved by SPIRIT from what would have been truly horrible fates. You would never know it, each has it's own wonderful personality and is gentle and peaceful. You have to see it for yourselves, when all this comes together, SPIRIT is truly a slice of Heaven on Earth!
I have a great experience so far (current volunteer). There is a great mission here to connect the bond between human and horse. I really enjoy giving back to my community and this place has allowed me to use my skill sets just the way I wanted.
Wonderful program which gives kids with special needs an experience that really makes them happy. Wonderful volunteer staff and gentle horses really make this place at Frying Pan Park a great one.
The Spirit Open Equestrian program adds immeasurable value to our community and we are so fortunate to have been able to benefit from the opportunities to both receive the services provided by this program as well as to give back through volunteering there as well. Part of the beauty of the program is the way giving and receiving are all interwoven throughout the program and all are beneficiaries of the remarkable good that this program does for mind, body, and spirit on an individual as well as on a community level. Our young adolescent son, who was struggling with multiple physical challenges and related social/emotional struggles, started out as a client and over the years has participated in every aspect of the program , from Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, to Therapeutic Riding, and the Equine Assisted Learning Program. The experiences were life-changing for him, as he transitioned from hardly being able to get up off the couch into a young man who walked tall, with a sense of purpose, and felt a remarkable sense of calm, confidence, and purpose though his work at the barn amongst the Spirit Herd and the supportive "family" created by the director, Davorka Suvak. No longer in need of services, today he is a volunteer who feels confident and self-assured, and also knows that he always has a home at Spirit. Spirit is a rare gem in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this fast-paced area that allows people of all ages and abilities to slow down, enjoy nature, gain skills and a sense of well-being, whether on the giving or the receiving end of the activities offered amongst the beautiful Spirit Herd. I can't say enough good things about this organization.
Dada and company have helped my son gain confidence and strength with their wonderful program. I can not repay them for all their support and guidance in getting him to where he is now.
It is so rewarding to watch the growth of this program which emphasizes a focus on ability rather than disability. Volunteers, clients, the Board of Directors and committee members, friends in the community and the Program Director work side by side to ensure a safe and enriching life experience. Take the time to investigate SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program for yourself or your loved ones. It provides life changing opportunities for all ages.
Truly an amazing non-profit that puts the needs of its clients and therapy animals first and foremost. The staff, BoD and volunteers work tirelessly to ensure the success of current programs while at the same time, working towards a brighter future to serve more of the needs of the community.
EXCELLENT non-profit program! The Staff/Instructors are compassionate with their love for humanity as well as animals...so very apparent. My 12 year old daughter was a little fearful at first, but with the guidance and assurance from Spirit - she lovesssssssssss it! As a recipient of the Junior National Honor Society as well as a volunteer with Best Buddies, she will be able to take part within Spirit and volunteer her services to assist the special needs children that also partake in this wonderful program! Spirit has helped my daughter build up her self esteem and looks forward to mastering the equestrian sport. The instructors are top notch, knowledgeable, kind and devoted to their profession. I applaud Spirit Open Equestrian!!!
I started volunteering with Spirit Open Equestrian Program in middle school, nine years ago. As an aspiring veterinarian, I am incredibly lucky to have gotten the opportunity to work with horses and people of all different ages and backgrounds. The skills learned and the friendships I have made as a volunteer have followed me ever since. Coming in to Spirit, I was really excited to work with horses and help disabled riders benefit from hippotherapy, but I did not expect to grow so much myself. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to have worked with such kind hearted, inspiring people, who have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others (both four legged and two). Davorka Suvak has transformed too many lives to count with her program, and I am so incredibly grateful to have been a part of it growing up. Seeing children bond with horses and overcome their personal challenges is one of the most beautiful things anyone can see in this world and I feel truly honored to have been able to see so many grow in the saddle. Thank you Dada, for everything!
Our daughter has participated in the Spirit Open Equestrian Program for 6 years as a rider and a volunteer. As a rider, she improved her core muscles, ability to follow directions, and self confidence, while learning how to ride, including communication with her assigned horse. She has progressed from being led by volunteers to riding on her own. Periodic shows allow riders to show off their skills; it's a great confidence builder. As a volunteer, she learned important job skills such as the importance of being on time, dressing for the weather, following the supervisor's directions, and doing her best work. Dada, the program director, has a special way with each rider, regardless of ability, and creates a positive and caring environment in which to blossom. And she is a great horse woman who rescues horses that are headed to the slaughter because of injury, illness or abuse, and patiently trains each one to work with her special riders. The volunteers and staff are very caring and dedicated to helping each rider perform to best of ability. We are very grateful for this marvelous program and support it whole-heartedly.
The people at Spirit are wonderful and full of compassion and energy. They serve a huge range of people, old and young, with all levels of ability, and all of them are taken care of in a supportive and nurturing environment that fosters growth and healing.
They do a great deal of incredible and selfless work and don't receive nearly the amount of recognition they deserve. Truly a hidden gem of the area that I'm sure will grow to shine even brighter to a wider audience in the times ahead.
Spirit Open Equestrian has had an amazing impact on our daughter. She struggles with self control and social issues. The mentors at Spirit have helped guide her and have been role models. She has developed special bonds with he horses and mentors. We live in the Herndon community near the park. Having this program is something that is special and we feel truly blessed. As a parent and as a teacher I have rarely seen anything impact my child or children as much as Spirit has. We love this program.
My daughters are competitive riders. In Middle School for the National Honor Society they had a service hour requirement. Marrying their love of horses to their need for service is how we became involved at Spirit.My girls lead and side walk, groom, muck, ride, smile and laugh and come home renewed and joyful. Spirit is as healing for my overly busy, overly competitive, stressed out teens as it is for any of the clients it serves. It is an invitation to be fully in the moment with the horses, the other volunteers and clients. It is a rejeuvenating time filled with sharing and working along without worring about performance. Spirit has been a wonderful, grounding addition to our lives.
My 13 year old has benefitted from all of the programs offered by SPIRIT for a truly holostic approach to mental health issues (anxiety, depression, social isolation) and related physical problems (chronic pain). We have seen a complete turnaround in our young teen's mood, confidence, and ability to fully participate in and enjoy life again. Through therapeutic riding, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, and Equine Assisted Learning, he has found a safe and loving community among the horses and the peers and adults who share his love for them.
My 13 year-old daughter has been a part of the SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program for about three months now and I already see a difference in her. She is part of the Equine-Assisted Learning Program. Before joining SPIRIT, she was making very poor choices in the people she chose to associate with, was very disrespectful to her father and I, and was very quick to have her anger escalate into a full-on tantrum like you would see from a two year old. She held the family hostage as we would never know if we would get the kind, sweet soul we knew she could be, or the sullen, disrespectful teen she was becoming. She had a very low self-esteem despite all of the love and opportunities and support we gave her at home.
When I first met with Dada to talk about the program to see if it might be a good fit for my daughter, I could tell she truly cared. She sat with me and listened to my struggles and I could tell she really cared. She helped come up with a way to bring this program up with my daughter. You see, my daughter refuses therapy. After talk-therapy failed multiple times, I tried art therapy because she always has pencils and artist markers in her hands. However, because the word 'therapy' was involved, she refused to talk to the therapist and it became an epic battle. Dada encouraged me to not use the work 'therapy' when it came to talking about SPIRIT. I brought it up in a way that it appeared to be my daughter's idea and she loved it! This was through Dada's guidance! I would have brought it up wrong and ruined any chance of success!!
Well, my daughter LOVES to come to SPIRIT and comes as often as possible. She has been less argumentative with me and her father. She chooses SPIRIT over hanging out with the kids we prefer her not to hang out with. She is learning how to handle herself better by helping the adults help the special needs students. She is gaining confidence in her abilities as she learns to care for horses. She is learning to push through her own medical condition which can cause chronic fatigue, stomach pains, body pains, etc.
This program has been such a blessing to us. We are seeing parts of our daughter that we feared were gone. These teen years are not going to be easy, but I strongly feel that, with the help of SPIRIT, we might just make it through!
Review from Guidestar
Spirit resonates with you from the moment you meet one of the horses, volunteers, clients, or any other member of the family. A tremendous amount of work and love go in to the program, delivering tangible results. I have experienced personal growth, and witnessed the growth of others. Kudos to Spirit!
Miracles happen on this little horse farm. Volunteering has never been more rewarding. The youth, the horses, the staff and the vision of the Program Director make this program truly exceptional. Your spirit will open when you visit Spirit Open Equestrian Program.
Excellent therapeutic riding program. Staff and volunteers are dedicated and very caring. Results are phenomenal. View their videos!
As Churchill said, "There's something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."
This summer the team at SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program is providing over 100 individual session hours each week. And THAT is a whole lot of good!
Spirit provides training for volunteers of a wide range of ages. The organization helps special needs kids and adults through various equine activities. Not all the activities are mounted. It is gratifying to watch the improvement in various physical and mental challenges of clients.
SPIRIT is amazing in how they serve the community. There are trained instructors with lots of highly trained volunteers. The Program Director Dada is so very compassionate and posses an incredible knowledge of therapeutic riding. She brings many years of experience from Europe and the United States to this extraordinary program. I highly recommend SPIRIT as it is a top notch program with an abundance of expertise!
Spirit is an amazing organization that helps not only people with disabilities but also their families! The sense of accomplishment the participants take from connecting to and partnering with the horses is what the Spirit Open Equestrian Program is all about! The smiles on the faces of the children says it all! Spirit's instructors, volunteers, horses and participants are one big happy family who support each other every day in every way possible!
I've been volunteering at the Spirit Open Equestrian Program for a little over a year now, and it has been truly amazing to see the time, energy, love, passion, and dedication to excellence that is exhibited every day.
My teenage daughters volunteer in this program. It started out as a "I need summer service hours" commitment and has evolved into one of the best things they do all week! They come home after their time at Spirit relaxed and happy, having spent 3 hours outdoors, unplugged and working collaboratively to help someone else! It's been a really great experience for our family. Spirit is well run and transparent, the horses well cared for and well loved and the community is better for having access to this program.
This is highly transparent non profit with dedicated Team