Horse therapy in Fruita: Fundraising gala planned for February |

Horse therapy in Fruita: Fundraising gala planned for February

Heather Portenier
Special to the Free Press
Christy Douglass (left), Fable, Morgan Kareus and Trish Stepp help clients year-round at Harmony Acres.
Heather Portenier |


WHAT: Hearts for Horses

WHERE: A Taste of Heaven Catering, 2817 North Ave., Grand Junction

WHEN: Feb. 7, 6 p.m. & 7 p.m.

COST: $30 or $20 depending on ticket type; $2 more at door


In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Harmony Acres Equestrian Center hopes that its upcoming gala — Hearts for Horses — will bring people together for a cause. The event is scheduled for Feb. 7 at A Taste of Heaven Catering, located at 2817 North Ave. All proceeds will aid the Fruita organization’s programs and horses.

Two ticket options for the gala are available for purchase— fine dining and a wine and dessert bar at 6 p.m. for $30; or dessert only at 7 p.m. for $20. Tickets at the door are an additional $2. Table sponsorships are also available. A silent auction will include various Valentine’s Day items as well as music.

According to Harmony Acres Equestrian Center partners Christy Douglass, Morgan Kareus and Trish Stepp, the group is passionate about its mission to unite humans and horses.

“Our goal is really to serve everyone,” Douglass said. “We’ve never turned anyone away.”

The overhead costs of the lease, maintaining the facility, including food for the 10 horses and ponies, can be monumental, Douglass added. Located at the corner of 20 and K roads in Fruita, Harmony Acres sits at the back of private property and consists of a barn, a covered arena, plus living space for the horses and recreational areas for programming. The first item on their wish list is a heater for the arena, because some of the clients are sensitive to the cold.

While programs such as riding or vaulting lessons bring in some profit, many of Harmony Acre’s disabled clients can’t afford therapeutic sessions. However, reduced to no-cost services are offered for those who need it. Harmony Acres obtained nonprofit 501(c)3 status in September and has begun the process of writing grants to receive additional funding.


Douglass and Kareus were friends since college and former co-workers at another organization. They decided to take their education, experience and common vision to new heights by opening Harmony Acres to help both horse lovers and people in need.

“It’s about meeting people at different walks of their lives and connecting them with a horse that will meet them at exactly the place they need to be,” Kareus said. “And it happens every time.”

Stepp said her involvement with Harmony Acres impacted her life in many ways. She works alongside Douglass to provide a mental-health therapy program, she cares for the horses, and she also helps with training.

“We all have the same interests, the same goal, and that’s helping other people with the help of horses,” Stepp explained. “I’m a much happier person, more outgoing. I’ve always been better with animals — they accept you for who you are.”

According to Harmony Acres organizers, Fable — one of the horses that works with disabled clients — is especially sympathetic to her rider’s abilities, knowing exactly how to react when a rider is on her back. She once stopped walking because a client with cerebral palsy had dropped a foot from the stirrup, unbeknownst to the side-walker. Once it was realized and corrected, Fable continued her session.

“Her intelligence is incredible, and she’s so in tune with people,” Douglass said. “Horses are great for therapy— they mirror people so well. You can really see what’s going on with a person just by looking at the horse. That’s why we use them for mental-health therapy.”


Though Harmony Acres is staffed daily, more volunteers are always needed, especially as they plan to build their mentorship program. No experience is needed; they’ll train anyone who’s interested.

“Our goal here is to offer a supportive environment for people to thrive in their lives,” Douglass said.

For more information on Harmony Acres Equestrian Center’s upcoming fundraising gala Feb. 7, the many programs offered, and other ways to help, visit

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