In 1999 the US Navy Master Jet Base called Cecil Field was closed under the federal BRAC legislation. The City of Jacksonville (COJ) received the entire 17,000 acre parcel from the Navy. The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) conveyed just over 2000 acres on the Northside as Public Park Land to the citizens of Jacksonville. The COJ developed a master plan for the property, named The Cecil Recreation Center, funding it through a tax payer initiative called the Better Jacksonville Plan. The Master Plan allocated 823 acres of the 2,000 as “active” recreational property, which allowed the Jacksonville Equestrian Center (JEC) and other recreational facilities to be built.
As part of the original COJ Master Plan an equine therapeutic center was to be located near the JEC. In 2014 Northeast Florida Equestrian Society (NFES) formed a new 501.c.3 corporation, Northeast Florida Equestrian Society/H.O.R.S.E. Therapies of Northeast FL, Inc. The Mission of NFES is to “Build partnerships between horses, humans and the community for healing the mind, body and soul of individuals and positively impacting society through demonstration of the power of horses changing human lives”. The acronym for H.O.R.S.E. is Helping Others Rehabilitate through the Service of Equines. The program is intended to serve individuals with physical and mental disabilities, active and retired military personnel as well as civilians of all ages.
In 2018 NFES approached the University of North Florida (UNF) for a Collaboration and Affiliation Agreement. UNF established a Graduate Certificate in Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling in the Brooks College of Health Department of Public Health. They recruited an industry recognized expert to develop the program with significant practical experience in equine therapy. The UNF Program provides professional training to prepare healthcare professionals for AAT/EAAT work
(Animal-Assisted Therapy/ Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies).