For the past 10 years, Richard Markell, DVM, has traveled every Wednesday afternoon to the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center in Orange County, Calif., about 75 miles from his own practice in Encinitas, Calif.

An AAEP member who has cared for horses competing in the Olympic Games and World Cup, Markell provides basic veterinary care to center's 22 therapy horses free of charge. The center is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through therapeutic horse-related programs. Last year, The Shea Center saw more than 525 children and adults with more than 70 different disabilities in the programs and services they provide.

The Shea Center will honor Markell with the Michael Lewis Friends of the Disabled Award at the Shea Center's black tie gala Saturday, June 20, at the Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach. Each year, this award is presented to individuals who have exemplified outstanding community support, voluntarism, and philanthropy through their volunteerism and support of The Shea Center and the disabled community.

"I think that being involved with a charity and doing something important in the world is the real value in our life--it's truly not what you have, how famous you are or what your degree is," Markell said.

Markell is the faculty adviser and lead veterinarian at the Shea Center, working in partnership with veterinarians who care for the center's horses. He educates the center's instructors on equine issues related to therapeutic riding as well as general horse care.

The Shea Center is one of the largest therapeutic riding centers in the country where highly trained medical professionals work dedicated volunteers to help people with special needs make improvements in their daily lives through their participation at The Shea Center. Learning to walk, learning to talk and learning to be independent are only some of the many benefits participants get.

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American Association of Equine Practitioners

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