This Young Woman at Gifford Middle School Could be the CEO of a National Non Profit Organization: “Give a Buck” for Special Equestrians


Isabel Ernst, one of the founders of Give a Buck and the President of Give a Buck Young Ambassadors


Give a Buck was formed in Vero Beach in May 2013, to support Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast, a local nonprofit organization which provides therapeutic riding programs for children and adults with disabilities. Since then, Give a Buck has established seven chapters in Florida, one in North Carolina and another in Georgia.

Last week we wrote about how the Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast Steps Up its Game To Become a “Premier Accredited Center.”

Give a Buck asks horse owners to give as little as a buck – or as much as they can – with their monthly boarding payment to therapeutic riding programs for children and adults with physical or mental disabilities, or for those who are economically disadvantaged.

Give a buck logo

Ancient Greek literature mentioned the use of horse-back riding as therapy. In 600 BC, Orbasis documented the therapeutic benefit of horse riding. In Scandinavia, during the outbreak of poliomyelitis in 1946, equestrian therapy was introduced.  The oldest-known center for disabled people in the US was established in 1969 in Michigan; the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center for the Handicapped.

Isabel said: “I had the great privilege of growing up with horses and have been riding since I was six years old.  I started on a pony and have just moved up to a horse.

The way horses heal people is amazing and I thought everyone with a disability should have the opportunity to experience how they can help them.

Once I saw a woman in a wheel chair who had never walked get up on a horse and when I saw the look of joy in her face – I’ve never felt anything like it – I knew right then and there I would dedicate myself to therapeutic horse riding.  Being up on that horse made her feel like she was walking.”

Isabel was a regular volunteer at Special Equestrians and had the good fortune to meet up with Sissy DeMaria, who had the idea to raise money to provide therapeutic horse riding to those with limited financial resources.

Sissy is president of Kreps DeMaria Public Relations and Marketing, voted the best Miami-based public relations firm for the past three years by Daily Business Review readers.


Sissy DeMaria

A lifelong equestrian, Sissy fell head over heels for horses when she was five years old after her mother took her for lessons.

Sissy says: “Nothing set my heart a flutter like the feel of a muzzle, the click-clack sound of hooves on pavement, a welcoming whinny, or the thought of being able to share this love affair with those less fortunate.

In the spring of 2013, I conceived the idea of Give a Buck, while riding Jazz, my Kentucky bred thoroughbred, a relative of the great Secretariat.”

In writing this article, Sissy wanted us to focus on Isabel.

At just 10 years-old Isabel joined Sissy in co-founding Give a Buck for Special Equestrians because she was inspired by the kind of “horse power” that heals broken bodies, minds and spirits.

The mission was simple. She wanted to share the unique joys of horses – and horsemanship – with those in our communities who have physical or emotional disabilities. The power and warmth of a horse strengthens and tones muscles, improves balance, head control and coordination, builds patience and self-esteem and offers a sense of freedom and equality.

Isabel is president of Give a Buck Young Ambassadors and has donated countless volunteer hours organizing the group of children and teenagers from seven to seventeen years old that support her cause.

The young volunteers she organized are critical to Give a Buck‘s success and mission of ensuring that no child or adult with special needs is denied access to this life changing therapy.

Led by Isabel, the Young Ambassadors meet monthly during the school year and assist with a variety of fund and “friend” raising activities throughout the year. They receive community service hours while practicing the values of compassion and volunteerism.

They also participate by selling Give a Buck merchandise, such as T-shirts, hats, polo shirts and bumper stickers, at horse shows and serving on committees for the annual fund raising event, the WTI Winter Equestrian Festival Annual Jump for the Children Gala.

She escorts Give a Buck pony ambassador Annie at horse events, assists with social media, and plans hands-on volunteer days at therapeutic stable partners. Young Ambassadors also write thank you notes to donors, serve as photographers and historians at all events and encourage and lead others to give and get involved through their selfless actions.

“Isabel is an AMAZING young girl and I believe she should be recognized for the outstanding goodwill she is doing in the community,” said Sissy.

Isabel said she would eventually like to go on to “do something in the medical field to help find cures that people with disabilities live with.”  Then I asked her how many equine therapeutic facilities there are in the United States.  She said “there are too many to count.”  So, I said, what if you could take Give a Buck nationally to support all these facilities and you could be the CEO.  She said: “that would probably be better than medical school.”

If you google “therapeutic riding schools for those with special needs” there are pages and pages of them.

Once again, as we wrote last week in our article referenced above, we are curious what horses think about.

Horse 2

Watercolor by Gail Dolphin, Vero Beach.

Isabel said: “I think they think. They think about eating, running around and being free.  They think about being loved and being cared for.  They all have unique personalities and I believe they feel the vibes of happiness their riders experience.

For me, I’ve seen that happiness first hand – it’s priceless and that’s amazing I think.”



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Email Isabel to offer your support at:

One thought on “This Young Woman at Gifford Middle School Could be the CEO of a National Non Profit Organization: “Give a Buck” for Special Equestrians

  1. Very inspiring !! Isabel is to be commended for giving of herself to help those in need and making our world a better place to live.

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