Rockford leaders break ground on Lockwood Park equine center

The center will focus on helping young people struggling with mental health.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 6:08 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - On Wednesday, city leaders broke ground on the Perks Family Equine Center.

This is a 35,000-square-foot indoor equine center at Lockwood Park on Rockford’s west side. The goal is to have the center open by spring 2024.

Studies show that spending time with horses can have positive effects on a person’s mental health. Experts say the interaction helps patients better process their thoughts and calms them down.

Lockwood Park Manager, Jennifer Winberg, knows the benefits firsthand. She says she was in a dark place in her younger years, and horses offered her that escape, and the chance to heal. Winberg hopes that young people who have similar mental health struggles will have a similar experience at this center.

“Horses, they can see things, because they’re prey animals, so they can sense what’s going on inside,” she said. “Versus sometimes we say we’re ok when we’re not really ok. A horse is very honest with their responses to us, so they give us immediate feedback as to what’s going on.”

Rockford Park District executive director, Jay Sandine, thinks this could be one of the most important projects the Park District has ever undertaken. He’s excited and hopes it will have a positive effect on the community.

“I’ve seen it as a parent, myself. I’ve got a little lady, a little daughter who is just an amazing kid and she was real shy when she was little,” he said. “And power of animals, but especially a horse, there’s a unique ability that a horse has to relate to kids and kind of meet them where they’re at.”

The center will include eight horse stalls, an arena, a break-out area for the horses, wash bays, a grooming area, and a tack room. Giving visitors to have the full horse interaction experience.

Even though the ground has been broken, only around $5.4 million of the $10 million goal has been raised. If you would like to donate, leaders say every single dollar counts.

Anyone who wishes to donate to the center can do so here.