In 2002, sixteen horses in a cruelty case were seized by Sacramento County Animal Control and placed in the care of Beth DeCaprio, a well-known small animal rescuer in the area. The horses began their journey housed on a small plot of undeveloped, residential land behind DeCaprio’s house. Once she agreed to care for this unnatural herd, however, DeCaprio found her calling and the journey of what is now known as The Grace Foundation of Northern California began.
Legal ownership of the sixteen horses was awarded to DeCaprio in 2003. During that time, DeCaprio established and incorporated The Grace Foundation of Northern California. By 2004, the organization filed and received its 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
Realizing that children were subject to cases of neglect and abuse just like her 16 horses were, DeCaprio decided to establish programs for children, individuals, and at-risk youth by putting some of these rescued animals to work as therapy horses. The equine facilitated programs, which are in effect to this day, include activities with the horses in which children and youth learn about and apply important skills including leadership, problem solving, creative thinking, responsibility, teamwork, assertiveness, communication, and relationship building. Activities provide the children and youth the opportunity to assist with the rehabilitation of an animal and provide that animal with a higher quality of life. Taking part in the animal’s recovery, allows children and youth to build self-esteem and self-confidence, learn how to work with peers, gain a sense of feeling needed and valued, and the joy of what it feels like to make a difference in this animal’s life.
In 2005, The Grace Foundation’s equine assisted learning programs were approved through the Folsom/Cordova and San Juan Unified School Districts and private programs with individual at-risk youth began. 2005 also brought collaborative efforts between The Grace Foundation and the University of California – Davis, Center for Animals in Society & Veterinary Medicine Extension from the School of Veterinary Medicine. Throughout this year, over 200 children were involved in The Grace Foundation Educational and Enrichment Programs; and over 50 horses made “Grace” their home.
In January of 2006, MJM Properties donated use of their land (600 acres) for The Grace Foundation’s new home. During that time, Grace collaborated with the City of Folsom and agreed to house and care for their Mounted Patrol Unit, in exchange for incorporation of the Mounted Police Patrol in Grace’s educational programs. During 2006, the of California-Davis, Center for Animals in Society & Veterinary Medicine Extension from the School of Veterinary Medicine and the Grace Foundation developed educational and therapeutic programs, and conducted research addressing questions for both animals and youth. The Grace herd grew to 84 horses, three goats and a calf by the end of 2006.
By 2008, over 5,000 children had participated in one or more of The Grace Foundation programs since their inception. This was the year that Grace also brought on a full-time, large animal veterinarian, and began collaboration with the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School to provide farrier care for Grace’s equine residents. New educational programs were added, including a Life/Science field trip approved by the State of California for science curriculum for grades 3 through 8. A new division of Grace called Pony Town was also established and built for the early intervention of childhood autism during 2008.
In 2009, a local non-profit organization which provided therapeutic riding programs for special needs individuals, called Ride and Shine was about to close its doors due to the poor economy and drop in funding and donations. They approached The Grace Foundation for help and, within a few months, Grace absorbed Ride and Shine and incorporated the group’s platform for its own therapeutic riding program, which is now called “Ride and Shine at Grace”.
In February of 2010, the Western States Horse Expo collaborated with the Grace Foundation to host the first annual “HELP Rescue Me Trainer’s Challenge”. The goal of the Challenge is to promote the benefits of adopting rescue horses, produce horses that are ready to go to work for their adopters, and help to showcase the training talents of quality, local trainers throughout Northern California.