1999-The land upon which the JEC is located was part of the US Navy Master Jet Base called Cecil Field. When the base was closed under the federal BRAC legislation in 1999, the City of Jacksonville (COJ) received the entire parcel of land at over 17,000 acres from the Navy. Mostly undeveloped forest land on the North Side, the South Side includes the airstrip that is the second longest runway in Florida and was the alternate landing site for the space shuttle program. The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) conveyed just over 2000 acres on the North Side 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 allows the JEC to expand and other recreational facilities to be built.
2004-The Jacksonville Equestrian Center(JEC) part of the Master Plan, is a 30 million dollar facility and is currently portioned at 80 acres. JEC will be expanded during our capital build out. Surrounding the JEC is an Olympic-sized indoor heated competition pool and recreation center open year-round, competition softball fields, a trail head access to paved and unpaved trails for riding, hiking, cycling, fishing, bird watching and recreational activities such as cross country track, community runs and obstacle courses.
2004 to 2014-JEC managed through a private facility management firm.
2008- A long time supporter of the JEC and gentleman that was instrumental in the Renaissance of the Jacksonville Zoo, Henry “Tip” Graham, CEO of the Scott McRae Group, proposed building a therapeutic riding center on the Cecil Recreational parcel. He had traveled around the United States researching various programs and designs. The management company at that time denied Mr. Graham’s proposal. Shortly after his presentation, Mr. Graham was diagnosed with ALS. During his remaining years, he used horses as a part of his therapy, driving one handed and using a ski rope to steer. Once NFES took over the reins for managing the JEC in 2014, we started our quest to fulfill his dream as well as that of The City of Jacksonville Master Plan. The Graham Family continues to support the program and have donated his carriage that was modified with wheelchair accessibility. It remains on display at JEC and is put in use for various functions.
2014-Northeast Florida Equestrian Society/H.O.R.S.E. Therapies of Northeast FL, Inc. (NFES) which is an all-volunteer board, was awarded the bid for management of the JEC. Since its contract, NFES has undertaken a capital campaign for expansion and improvements to the facility using a public-private partnership and many generous donors, vendors and trade partners. An equine therapeutic center, always a part of the original Master Plan, is to be located near the Equestrian Center. In accordance with the NFES mission statement and the DOI documents, NFES formed a new 501.c.3 corporation, Northeast Florida Equestrian Society/H.O.R.S.E. Therapies of Northeast FL, Inc. The acronym for H.O.R.S.E. is Helping Others Rehabilitate through the Service of Equines. The program will serve individuals with physical and mental disabilities, active and retired military personnel as well as civilians of all ages. By serving the military, the former Navy base would come full circle. Our motto is “Serving those who serve us” by providing therapeutic equine activities for American heroes.
2014-The first change made as the new management organization was footing at the JEC. Over time the footing in the arenas no longer filled the needs of the equestrians utilizing and showing at the JEC. It was determined new footing was required in order to develop new relationships with show managers and maintain existing relationships. New footing was placed in the existing arenas.
2015-In order to honor friends, families and equine partners as well as provide for a gathering area outside of the JEC a Brick Memorial Garden was envisioned and constructed. 2015-The family of Tip Graham donated his carriage for show and use at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
2017-The need for a turn out area located at the JEC for the horses which are showing was recognized and the need filled through constructing paddocks.
2018- NFES approached the University of North Florida for a Collaboration and Affiliation Agreement. UNF had established a Graduate Certificate in Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) in Counseling in the Brooks College of Health Department of Public Health. UNF had recruited an industry recognized expert to develop the program who had significant practical experience in equine therapy. The UNF Program provides professional training to prepare healthcare professionals for AAT/EAAT work.
2019 – H.O.R.S.E. Therapies Committee completed a sustainable business plan to launch an Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies program at JEC. The Goal: “To establish a financially sustainable Equine-Assisted Activities & Therapies (EAAT) program at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center (JEC), accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horses (PATH) within 5 years.”
2020 - H.O.R.S.E. Therapies of Northeast Florida, Inc. has started a small 4 horse “Pilot Program” at Hunter’s Run Farm, in Nocatee, where UNF Professor Dr. Carlene Taylor is working with a limited client base with donated horses (owned by Hunter’s Run boarders) and newly trained area Therapists and Equine Specialists. This “Pilot Program” is solely focused on mental health therapies which will allow H.O.R.S.E. Therapies to develop the infrastructure, protocols and staff necessary for a larger scale program implementation at the JEC in 2021. The larger scale program, once at the JEC, will include both mental health therapies and therapeutic riding as described in the 2001 Master Plan for the Cecil Recreational parcel.