SEMINOLE — A Seminole nonprofit that gives those with disabilities the chance to become equestrians needs help from the community to continue its mission in Pinellas County.

Horses for Handicapped will host a benefit concert Friday, Nov. 18, to help offset the costs of its services, which are free to its clients. 

"We are strictly an all-volunteer organization," said Deborah Frohnerath, vice president of fundraising for the program. "We have no paid staff and there is no charge for our riders."

Horses for Handicapped was founded in 1981 by the late Gene Harris as a Kiwanis Club service project in partnership with Mary Urquhart’s 4-H/Girl Scout club. 

According to Frohnerath, the organization helps people with a variety of conditions, including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and those on the autism spectrum.

"Our riders are specifically paired up with the horse that will work best for them," Frohnerath said.

She said some horses are better equipped for riders who are autistic, while others are better for those who have stability issues.

"Some of these kids have difficulty walking," Frohnerath said. "Then, you get them on a horse, and they have that sense of freedom of movement. That’s the part that I love. To see them grow and change in a way that other things can’t do.”

Horses for Handicapped teaches four riding classes, with four to five riders in each class, Frohnerath said.

"Depending on the experience level of the rider, we either have one or two side walkers who make sure the rider is secure in the saddle at all times," she said.

Horses are expensive, especially as all of the prices associated with them continue to rise, Frohnerath said.

"Fortunately, our horses do really well, but like any other animal, horses sometimes need help," she said.

The organization has a fiscal budget of around $82,000, which includes annual expenses for feed, hay, ferrier services, supplements and facility costs.

But like most things during the pandemic, the cost of running the program has increased.

"We apply for any grant that we can," Frohnerath said. "Unfortunately, a lot of the grants we used to apply for, after COVID, they have less to give.”

Frohnerath said the nonprofit relies on private donations and support from the Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club. 

"It’s not unusual to sometimes see things in the negative, which always makes people nervous," she said.

Horses for Handicapped will host a benefit concert from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, in the Parkview Room at Seminole City Park. The concert will feature music provided by Steve Middents, choir director at Lake Seminole Presbyterian Church, who will play a variety of songs from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, as well as some country and Christmas music.

The cost to attend is $25 per person, and includes drinks and snacks, as well as silent auction items, a raffle and door prize. 

Tickets may be purchased through the organization's website at, or on Eventbrite at

Frohnerath said watching riders become empowered through riding makes all the hard work the group does worth it.

"I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve seen kids grow up in this program," she said. "I see the impact it has on them. It changes them. It opens them up. The strength and the joy it gives them is amazing."