THERAPEUTIC HORSEBACK RIDING CENTERS The therapeutic benefits of bonding with an animal have long been praised by researchers and the medical community. For children and adults with special needs, horseback riding and interacting with horses provides a special therapy for improving physical, cognitive and social abilities. The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International (PATH, Intl.) was formed in 1969 to promote and set guidelines for equine-assisted activities and therapies.
For families who are interested in seeking this amazing therapy, there are several riding facilities in the Western Suburbs that are not for profit, PATH, Intl Premier Accredited Centers offering services.
The Ray Graham Association’s Hanson Center located in Burr Ridge is a 12-acre area that has a heated indoor riding facility, riding trails and an outdoor arena. Serving over 170 riders each week, students can begin riding as early as four years of age. “Some riders hope to increase social interaction, others learn how to follow 2 or 3 step directions, and some may want to improve their physical skills such as balance and fine motor skills,” says Cathy LeBeau, Horsemanship Administrator for Ray Graham Association’s Hanson Center.
Equine Dreams in Newark also provides therapeutic services specifically tailored to each individual’s needs with riding, ground skills, a sensory trail and life-size horse simulator lessons. In 2018, Equine Dreams provided Equine Assisted Activities to 1,527 children, adults and veterans with special needs.
At Ready Set Ride Therapeutic Riding Facility in Plainfield, each rider becomes part of a team that consists of the horse, the leader, and two side walkers that stay together for the sessions, build up cognitive, gross motor skills and develop a partnership. Therapy is conducted in the form of games on horseback and instructors closely monitor and encourage improvement.
Friends for Therapeutic Equine Activities (FTEA) out of Wayne offers three opportunities for individuals with special needs: Mounted Horsemanship, Unmounted Horsemanship and Speech-Language Therapy in a safe, positive environment. “Our participants ride a horse or work with one from the ground and the attention they receive is positive and focuses on their abilities not their disability,” says Nancy Winkelman, Program Director.
All of these riding facilities are volunteer run and operate on funds generated by public donation, foundation grants, fundraising and in-kind donations. For more information on riding, volunteering or donating, please contact the centers at the following websites.
Hanson Center, Burr Ridge www.raygraham.org
Equine Dreams, Newark www.equinedreams.org
Ready Set Ride, Plainfield www.readysetride.org
FTEA, Wayne www.ftea.org
Mindy’s June Giving Inspiration: Now that school is out, email a teacher that made a difference in your child’s life.
ABOUT THE WRITER Mindy Kyle is the owner of Be Inspired Studios and is passionate about helping people discover what brings them joy and to live a full, healthy and happy life. She has her Masters in Fine Arts degree in creative writing from DePaul University and lives in Naperville with her husband, three children and the cutest dog in the land.