Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Therapeutic Riding program began in 1987. It provides a unique form of therapy to physically and mentally challenged children and adults through weekly interaction with our specially trained horses. The weekly riding sessions are not only beneficial for muscle control and balance, but also for the special bonds that are formed between rider and horse. Students in the program have ranged in age from 4 years to 80 years old and disabilities treated in the program include cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, learning problems, quadriplegia, conditions resulting from stroke and near-drowning, and many more. Each lesson is designed with input from the client’s doctor, physical therapist, other health care professionals, and family members. Our Therapeutic Riding program is an accredited operating facility. We pride ourselves on providing the safest, highest quality instruction to our clients. We offer 42 weekly lessons for a total of 2,400 riding sessions per year.
Currently we have 53 riders enrolled in our program. The Therapeutic Riding lessons provide physical, emotional, and mental benefits to the riders. In addition to being an alternative form of therapy, the lessons are an important athletic activity for children unable to participate in traditional sports of childhood like soccer and baseball. About a dozen of our students are confined to a wheelchair and their riding lesson is one of the few times they are able to experience a sense of freedom and independence. We charge a minimal fee of $28 per lesson, but the true cost to the Center is close to $140, so the remaining cost is absorbed through our fundraising efforts. Full scholarships are also available for clients with financial issues.