Fruita’s Harmony Acres Equestian Center offers lessons beyond riding |

Fruita’s Harmony Acres Equestian Center offers lessons beyond riding

Allison Ildefonso
Free Press Correspondent
Christy Douglass and one of Grand Valley Vaulting Harmony’s horse handlers look on as a team member performs a reverse plank on Toby, an 8-year-old Percheron draft horse.
Allison Ildefonso |

FRUITA, Colo. — Christy Douglass, of Grand Junction, has had a unique understanding of horses for as long as she can remember — even before she got her own horse at the age of 8. She went on to double major in equestrian science and psychology at William Woods University in Missouri

Now, age 35, Douglass uses her knowledge and intuition of horses to facilitate Harmony Acres Equestrian Center and Grand Valley Vaulting Harmony, a team she started two years ago that has since grown to have 25 active members. In a way, she said, the vaulting team gave birth to Harmony Acres, a nonprofit organization that Douglass and therapeutic riding instructor Morgan Kareus opened in June 2014.

“They’ve grown quite a bit,” said Ron Groves, owner of the property that houses Harmony Acres. “It’s a service they’re providing for the people here in the area; and as long as we can keep it going and everything works for them, and they’re happy with what’s going on, I’m happy for them.”

The center, located at 2006 K Road in Fruita, offers therapeutic riding lessons, mental health sessions with horses, traditional riding lessons and vaulting lessons. The horses, according to Douglass and Kareus, have a unique, natural way of picking up on a variety of people’s emotions.

“[Horses are] so intuitive and they seem to meet people exactly where they need to be met,” Kareus said. “They tell us what the person needs to work on, whether it be a strength issue, a balance issue, a mobility issue [or] an emotional issue. When you know your horses well, they will tell you a lot about people.”

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Douglass has seen firsthand how equestrian therapy can be beneficial for those not yet ready to talk about their experiences.

“Sometimes when we have deep traumas or things that have happened in our lives that’s really difficult to talk about, it might not even be helpful to talk about them,” Douglass explained. “But working with the horse gives [people] a different avenue to learn from those things and work on them. They’re also providing unconditional love, and the joy of interacting with them can be very healing for people.”

Along with Trish Stepp, who cares for the horses and assists with the therapy program at Harmony Acres, Douglass and Kareus are able to reach out to community members with a variety of physical and emotional needs.

“A lot of my clients have physical limitations that have made them feel robbed of things in their lives,” Kareus said, “and being able to ride and control a horse gives them a sense of freedom back.”

In addition to providing mental health and physical therapy with the horses, the center houses the “I Love Horses! Club,” which meets on site Fridays at 4:30 p.m. Douglass has also recently added Allison Ninemire to the Harmony Acres team as a certified riding instructor.

As someone whose career has centered around the many avenues of equestrianism, Douglass is confident in Harmony Acres’ ability to bring together a large group of individuals who believe that horses offer more than just a seat for riding.

“When I’m with a horse or riding a horse, that is the most authentic version of myself,” Douglass said. “Being able to share my passion and what I do with other people, and using that to help make their lives better, has just been really rewarding.”

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