Lend Your Voice To Naples Equestrian Challenge Riders

Naples Equestrian Challenge (NEC) has an extraordinary opportunity to expand its equine-assisted activities and therapy programs, but we need your help and support!

NEC was successful in receiving a Collier Development Building Grant in the amount of $520,000 for the purchase of the property immediately to the south of our current site.  The grant funds of $520,000 are equal to the appraised value of this lot.  NEC has entered into a sales contract with the property owner for the purchase price of $650,000 and have secured an additional $130,000 bridge loan from a very generous supporter and donor to make up the difference from the appraised value to the purchase price.  The sales contract has two contingencies:  1) that NEC is successful in obtaining the grant funds equal to the appraised value of the property, or $520,000; and 2) NEC is successful in obtaining a Conditional Use Permit from the County for 182 Ridge Drive (the lot under contract).  NEC is required to have a Conditional Use Permit so that  it may conduct its equine-assisted activities and therapy programs on that property.

NEC currently has a Conditional Use Permit on 206 Ridge Drive.  This is the property we conduct our programs on now, where the office, arena and barn are located.  Some of you may know that a few years back, we built a Sensory Trail around the paddocks to the south of the arena.  These paddocks and sensory trail are located on 194 Ridge Drive, which NEC purchased several years ago.  However, we have never been able to use the Sensory Trail for our riders because NEC does not have a Conditional Use Permit for 194 Ridge Drive.  NEC is permitted to have horses on this property but not able to conduct therapy lessons, etc.  Therefore, NEC has filed an application for a Conditional Use Permit for both 194 and 182 Ridge Drive, which will be reviewed and voted on by the Collier County Planning Commission on Thursday, September 5 at 9am.

Several Pine Ridge Estate homeowners, particularly those with homes directly across Ridge Drive from NEC, are adamantly opposed to NEC expanding to the lot to the south and are actively campaigning against the approval of the Conditional Use Permit.  Their voices will be heard at the upcoming Collier County Planning Commission meeting.


1.      Attend the CCPC this Thursday, Sept. 5 at 9am ? meeting will be held at the Board of County Commission Chamber, Collier County Government Center, Administration Building, 3rd Floor, 3299 Tamiami Trail East.   Just your attendance shows your support, but you may also wish to speak in support of NEC as well.  A short comment expressing your support will be very helpful.  Or if you are not able to attend the meeting, you can?

2.      Send the following email, which you may take great liberty in editing to make it personal to you, to the following members of the Collier County Planning Commission:

a.      Mark Strain, Chairman                   markstrain@colliergov.net

b.      Diane K. Ebert                                  dianeebert@colliergov.net

c.      Philip E. Brougham                          philbrougham@colliergov.net

d.      Karen Homiak                                   karenhomiak@colliergov.net

e.      Barry M. Klein                                   barrymklein@colliergov.net

f.       Paul Midney                                      pmidney@colliergov.net

g.      Mike Rosen                                       mikerosen@colliergov.net

Please send an email to express your support for NEC’s expansion and Conditional Use Permit to each of the above members of the CCPC ? no later than Wednesday evening.  Here is a suggested email for your consideration and personalization:

Dear Member of the CCPC:

I am a volunteer/participant for/in  the Naples Equestrian Challenge equine therapy programs and have been for the past _____ years.  I have personally seen the many benefits NEC’s equine-assisted activities and therapy programs provide to its participants (member of my family).  There are many more children and adults with special needs in Collier County that NEC can help by providing this vital therapy.  I urge you to approve NEC’s Conditional Use Permit application before you.  It is a wonderful program and a tremendous asset to (me/my family) and to our community.  Thank you, (Signed)

Below is the NEC proposed site plan as well as a description of NEC, its growth, its programs and collaborations along with the proposed uses of the new facilities.

All of us at NEC truly appreciate any assistance you can provide to help us grow and expand our services.  Many, many thanks!


206 Ridge Drive

Naples, FL 34108

T: 239.596.2988

F: 239.514.2908



My own letter:

Dear Member of the CCPC:

Since 2005, my family and I have been a part of the Naples Equestrian Challenge (NEC) family.  My husband, John Buck, and I each volunteer, advocate and most importantly are parents of rider, Riley Buck, age eleven.  I have personally seen the many benefits NEC’s equine-assisted activities and therapy programs provide to its participants and my own family.  Activities and organizations who accept and nurture a child as involved as my own are rare and should be treasured.  They also provide an amazing opportunity for those with time and energy to give to participate and see the return on their investment simply in smiles.  There are many more children and adults with special needs in the local community that NEC can help by providing this vital therapy.  I urge you to approve NEC’s Conditional Use Permit application before you.  It is a wonderful program and a tremendous asset to our community. 

I have attached photo’s of Riley from the horse show last spring.  I hope that you will see how amazing these moments are in Riley’s life.  Please feel free to speak with me personally at 239 495-0350.

Thank you, Stacie Wiesenbaugh

Naples Equestrian Challenge Conditional Use
Additional Operational Background

The mission of Naples Equestrian Challenge is to improve the lives of children and adults with special needs through therapeutic riding and other equine‐related programs. Established in 1995 and located at the corner of Goodlette Road and Center Street in the Pine Ridge Estates neighborhood, NEC became a PATH‐certified riding center (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, which is an international accrediting organization that has standardized the practices of therapeutic riding and equine‐facilitated learning and psychotherapy activities) in 2000.

In 2011, NEC achieved the coveted designation of a PATH International Premier Center. With the generous support of the community, NEC has expanded from serving four individuals in 1995 to 432 individuals in 2012. The majority of NEC’s 432 participants suffer with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD)/attention deficit‐hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, developmental delay, traumatic brain injury, post
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sensory integration disorder.

Each year of its history, NEC has been successful in further expanding its equine‐assisted activities and therapy programs to accommodate more participants. In 2012, NEC served 432 participants, who received 900 units of service (therapeutic riding, equine‐facilitated learning and equine facilitated psychotherapy sessions, outreach lessons and/or Summer Camp). By collaborating with other non‐profit organizations in Collier County (i.e., David Lawrence Center, PACE Center for Girls
in Immokalee, Friends of Foster Children, Alzheimer’s Support Network, Parkinson’s Association of SW Florida) NEC successfully added several equine‐facilitated learning and psychotherapy programs in 2012.

In January 2013, NEC launched Operation Strides, an equine‐assisted psychotherapy program for retired military veterans suffering with post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and/or amputation. Operation Strides is a fully‐funded program (no fee for participants) as NEC was successful in raising the funds needed from private donors to cover the program’s direct and indirect cost for approximately the next 2.5 years. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran
Affairs, there are more than 32,000 military veterans living in Collier County. NEC is one of only 66 PATH‐certified centers providing equine therapy services for veterans in the country.

NEC currently is operating at capacity. In an effort to offer its equine‐assisted activities and therapy programs to more Collier County citizens with special needs, the NEC Board of Directors is pursuing an opportunity to purchase the adjacent lot to the south of NEC’s current location. This 2.15 acre parcel, located at 182 Ridge Drive, would provide NEC with the opportunity to increase its impact on the community. This additional land would enable NEC to conduct simultaneous programming resulting in more program hours; thus increasing the number of participants able to benefit from NEC equine‐assisted activities and therapies, including NEC’s Operation Strides program for military veterans.

According to the data warehouse, more than 4,000 Collier County students have been screened, evaluated and assigned an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which calls for special accommodations due to a range of mental and physical disabilities from attention deficit disorder (ADD) to the most acute levels of cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Among those 4,000 students, it is reasonable to assume that as many as 1,000, or 25%, would qualify for NEC services. In the last
school year, NEC served 310 students, leaving a potential of 690 un‐ or under‐served students that may benefit from NEC’s equine‐assisted activities and therapies.

With the additional property located at 182 Ridge Drive, NEC is confident that with the extended facilities, approximately 200 additional children and adults will be served on this property per annum and for generations.
NEC’s preliminary build‐out plan entails:

  •  adding a six‐stall barn to house potentially four (4) additional therapy horses, with a tack room, feed/hay storage as well as laundry facility;
  •  a multi‐purpose room to conduct meetings, trainings and small events (i.e., annual volunteer appreciation event);
  •  a 75’ diameter (just slightly larger than 20 meters) round covered riding arena to host equine facilitated learning and psychotherapy programs as well as therapeutic interactive vaulting for riders with special needs; and,
  •  two additional turnout paddocks as well as a bridle path.

Hours for use of the new facilities will be consistent with hours for the existing programming. NEC typically conducts riding sessions between the hours of 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM. NEC on occasion may provide training to volunteers or conduct board meetings beyond their hours of 8:00 PM to approximately 9:00 PM. NEC does host special events throughout the year with these events ending at approximately 11:00 PM.

Multi‐purpose Room
In addition to providing meeting space for volunteer orientations and trainings, the multi‐purpose room provides NEC with the required meeting space to host PATH Instructor trainings. Currently, NEC is not able to host/conduct PATH instructor trainings due to its lack of adequate meeting space. As a PATH Premier Center and with the planned multi‐purpose room, NEC would have the required infrastructure to host these trainings which provide revenue to the organization.
Covered Round Riding Arena
The 75 foot diameter covered round riding arena will provide a much needed additional riding facility where NEC will be able to conduct concurrent equine therapy sessions during normal operating hours. The location of the round riding arena was selected to provide adequate distance from the existing covered riding arena so as not to require a public address system. An amplified public address system is not required in a 75 foot diameter covered round riding arena, especially
when kept an adequate distance from the existing riding arena that currently has a PA system that is used while conducting equine therapy sessions under it. The planned covered round riding arena will have lighting for evening sessions. However, the height of the arena sides and roof are low profile.

One Response to Lend Your Voice To Naples Equestrian Challenge Riders

  1. Bonita Mom says:

    Great news: The Collier County Planning Commission unanimously approved our Conditional Use Permit for 194 and 182 Ridge Drive! The next stage is for the Board of County Commissioners to review and vote on the petition on October 8th.

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