Therapeutic Horse Riding Choices

(Updated Nov. 2018)

On any Saturday afternoon at centers around the Delaware Valley and the nation, children with disabilities are learning to ride a horse. Therapeutic horseback riding is an enjoyable, educational activity that develops skills and builds friendships.

Therapeutic riding programs vary in their programs, riding styles and even the size of their horses. Riders can be found in an indoor ring or out on the trail. Some children take lessons alone, others in pairs or larger groups.

In most area programs, an instructor closely accompanies beginners and at least one volunteer “sidewalker” walks or jogs alongside the horse and supports the rider. More experienced students can trot and canter on their own. Programs also range in price, from free of charge to $50 or more per lesson.

Find a Therapeutic Riding Center
Delaware   |   New Jersey   |   Pennsylvania
NARHA, the national organization for equine-assisted activities and therapies, offers information and a member list.
Click here for Philadelphia-area farms and stables offering horseback riding and lessons.

At most riding centers, time in the saddle is just the beginning. Students participate in a variety of equine activities, such as grooming, feeding,attaching the lead rope and walking the horse. In addition to weekly instruction, many stables offer special events, as well as specialty and summer camp programs. Here are examples of the varied horse therapy activities
offered by area riding centers.

Tommy Burroughs, age 4, during a lesson at Special
Equestrians with instructor Diane Sampson. In balancing the ball, Tommy
practices hand-eye coordination (to plan where to go), fine motor skills
(to grip and gently release), and gross motor skills (to stretch and
balance).A Horse for Every Rider

In addition to therapeutic horseback riding, Special Equestrians in Warrington, PA, offers hippotherapy, a treatment that uses activities on the horse to help children develop functional skills. With sessions led by an occupational or physical therapist, hippotherapy is well-suited for younger riders and children with significant needs. These and other equine activities run throughout the week at this state-of the-art facility.

Among the innovative programs at Special Equestrians is REINS (Riders Excelling In New Skills), “a small, multi-sensory group program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). The curriculum includes both mounted and unmounted components,” says program director Anne Reynolds. Participants ride, but they also practice handwriting and play communication games. Occupational therapists and riding instructors work together with individuals and in group sessions.

Jonathan Fox plays catch with instructor Diane Sampson as volunteer Angela  DiPasquale leads therapy horse Ben at  Special Equestrians.Horseplay

At the Kaleidoscope Therapeutic Riding Program in Mount Laurel, NJ,  founder Kelly Adams uses kid-friendly activities to help riders explore their potential. Theme days, such as Mardi Gras and Welcome to Spring, come complete with costumes. Horsey games, such as relay races with giant spoons and tic-tac-toe with bean bags, add to the fun.

These themes and activities are the therapy. They create a warm environment and provide a fun, non-competitive way for children to interact with and learn from each other. According to Adams, “In this playful kind of setting, everyone excels.” While things can get silly, learning to ride is the goal. Usually, two students, preferably at different levels, take 30-minute lessons together.

Sherry Bohl, founder of the CHASE Center in Pitman, NJ, with her two children, Sierra, 11  and Samuel, 6, on a miniature horse.Start Small

CHASE (Challenged Horsemen and Small Equines) Center founder Sherry Bohl offers therapeutic riding on miniature horses (34 to 38 inches tall) at DREAM Park, a recreation complex in Logan Township, NJ. “Lower to the ground and not as intimidating, smaller horses are perfect for younger children,” says Bohl. CHASE welcomes riders as young as 2 to 3 years of age.

With the smallest students in mind, the CHASE Center sports a tiny saddle and three miniature mounts, Diva, Diamond, and Miss Special. Currently, lessons are offered one day a week.

Teen Scene

Therapeutic horseback riding is not just about the riders. The generosity of volunteers, usually teenagers from the local community, sustains day-to-day operations at many centers. From cleaning stalls to playing with siblings to walking alongside the horse and rider during lessons, volunteers make a crucial difference.

Although it is not for everyone, volunteer work at riding centers can be amazing and transformative. A phone call to your teen’s center of choice is enough to start the volunteer process.

Adaptive reins help
children learn how to steer their  horses.

Research on Riding

Programs have different ways to collect data on students and closely monitor their progress. One center, Quest Therapeutic Services in West Chester, PA, has a unique equine research project.

Through a grant from Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, professionals at Quest will launch, run, and evaluate an Equestrian Therapeutic Interactive Vaulting program for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Both an art and a sport, vaulting is the performance of different movements on the back of a horse. The benefits associated with this novel physical and educational experience include increased self-confidence and improved social and motor skills for children.

Sharon A. Hollander, PsyD works with children with autism spectrum disorders at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Toms River, NJ.

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Therapeutic Riding Centers


Carousel Farm Riding Stable / Carousel Park & Equestrian Center
New Castle County Carousel Park
3700 Limestone Rd.
Wilmington, DE 19808
Therapeutic and Non-Therapeutic Riding: 8-week sessions only.
Activities: camps, competition (Special Olympic, Paralympics), grooming & tacking, ground work, recreational riding, therapeutic riding, veterans programs, vocational training

The Center for Therapeutic &
Educational Riding

3491 Harris Rd., Townsend, DE 19734
Lessons and riding available by appt.
Activities: animal assisted activities with non-equines, grooming & tacking, ground work, therapeutic riding

Southern Delaware T.R.H.R.
Nassau, DE 19969
Activities: grooming & tacking, ground work, therapeutic riding

SummerWinds Stables
Hartley, DE and Warwick, MD
Activities: therapeutic riding, riding lessons, summer camp

Sweet Meadow Stable
Sweet Meadow Ln., Selbyville, DE 19975
Activities: Summer camp, day camp, parties, lessons, therapeutic riding.

Whispering Meadows Equestrian Center
77 Eastburn Dr., Clayton, DE 19938
Activities: Lessons, therapeutic riding, summer camp.

New Jersey

Beyond Balance
1148 Smithville Rd., Mount Holly, NJ 08036
Activities: grooming & tacking, ground work, recreational riding, therapeutic riding

CHASE: Challenged Horsemen
And Small Equines

DREAM Park, Logan Township, NJ
Activities: animal assisted activities with non-equines, backriding/tandem hippotherapy, grooming & tacking, ground work

Compassionate Friends TRC
21 Branin Rd.
Medford, NJ 08055
Sun., 12noon-3pm; Tues.,
4:30-6pm; Thurs., 4pm-6pm

400 U.S. Rte. 130 S.
Logan Township, NJ 08085
Activities: summer camp, therapeutic riding Mon., 1-6:30pm. To arrange, call 609-617-2765 or e-mail:

Kaleidoscope Therapeutic Riding Program, Inc.
23 Elmwood Dr.
Tabernacle, NJ 08088

Labrador Hill Farm & Studio
1665 Conrad Ave., Waterford, NJ
856-768 9980
Activities: therapeutic riding & equine-assisted therapy

Riding High Farm
145 Rte. 526, Allentown, NJ
Activities: therapeutic horseback riding & hippotherapy, summer camp

Shadow Equestrian
1907 Monroeville Rd.
Monroeville, NJ 08343
Mon.-Wed.: 4-7pm, Sat: 9am-12:30pm. Appt. only.
Activities: therapeutic riding


All Riders Up
265 Mattson Rd., Garnet Valley, PA 19060
Daily by appointment.
Activities: grooming & tacking, ground work, therapeutic riding, vocational training and lessons.

Flying High Equestrian Therapy, Inc.
342 Level Rd., Collegeville, PA 19426
Activities: recreational riding, therapeutic riding

Heaven's Gate Farm, LLC
5590 Bradshaw Rd., Pipersville, PA 18947
Activities: camp; therapeutic riding.
Disabilities served: autism, Asperger syndrome, ADHD, PDD

Ivy Hill Therapeutic Equestrian Center
PO Box 394, Perkasie, PA 18944
Activities: camp, competition, drill team, driving, grooming & tacking, ground work, hippotherapy, recreational riding, therapeutic riding, vaulting/interactive vaulting, vocational training

Pegasus Riding Academy
8297 Bustleton Ave., Phila., PA 19152
Sun: 12:30pm-4pm, Tues-Thurs: 5:15pm-8:15pm, Sat: 9am-1:30pm.
Activities: grooming & tacking, ground work, hippotherapy, therapeutic riding, vaulting/interactive vaulting

Quest Therapeutic Services, Inc.
461 Cann Rd., West Chester, PA 19382
Mon, Tues, Thurs, 3-6:45pm; Wed., 8am-12pm; Sat., 9am-1pm.
Activities: interactive vaulting program for ages 7-12 with autism spectrum diagnoses
Disabilities served: autism, cerebal palsy, developmental delays, physical disability

Rainbow Ridge Farm
4841 Applebutter Rd., Pipersville, PA 18947
215-766 9357
Activities: camp; therapeutic riding.

Sebastian Riding Associates
3589 Water Street Rd., Collegeville, PA 19426
Mon.-Fri., 9:30am-8pm, Sat.-Sun., 9am-3pm. Appt. only.
Activities: 4-H, camp, competition, grooming & tacking, ground work, hippotherapy, recreational riding, therapeutic riding, vocational training

Special Equestrians, Inc.
PO Box 1001, Warrington, PA 18976-1046
Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm; Sat., 9am-3pm
Activities: camp, competition, drill team, grooming & tacking, ground work, hippotherapy, mobile community programs, recreational riding, therapeutic riding

Thorncroft Therapeutic Horsebackriding, Inc.
190 Line Rd., Malvern, PA 19355-3318
Mon-Fri, 9am-9pm; Sat 9am-5pm.
Activities: camp, competition, drill team, equine facilitated experiential learning, grooming & tacking, ground work, therapeutic riding,

Black Horse Stables
1600 Potshop Rd., Worecester, PA 19403
Daily, 7am-9:30pm
Activities: camp; equine swim therapy



Categories: Special Needs Parenting