ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Blazer Foundation is putting $500,000 towards the construction of an Indoor Equine Center at Lockwood Park.

The $10 million center will be home to a new form of mental health therapy that connects young people with disabilities or other hardships, with horses.

According to the Rockford Park District, “Equine-assisted learning activities work in part because of the natural ability horses have to pick up on human emotional expressions and needs. Particularly patient, perceptive, and attuned to displays of fear, anger, agitation, and despair, horses are able to mirror human moods in a nonjudgmental way, without motive or expectations. As a person bonds with the horse, self-awareness grows and emotional healing often takes place.”

The funding from the Blazer Foundation puts the project over its initial $7 million goal, and representatives for the Rockford Park District hope they can break ground soon. Additional funding will be raised to sustain the facility for the next generation.

“So that we’re not doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, we have to try something different. This is different,” said Rockford Park District Foundation director Lori Berkes-Nelson. “The power of the force will bring hope and healing to the kids in this community. I can’t we can’t build it fast enough, as far as I’m concerned.”

The indoor equestrian center has been in development since August 2021, and is expected to “serve the needs of youth living with mental health issues, developmental disabilities, trauma, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and other needs.”

Construction is expected to begin sometime this spring to wrap up by the end of the year.

Lockwood Park, home of the Sarver Children’s Farm, currently boards horses and offers horseback riding lessons and trail rides.