Healing Horses

Healing Horses

New Mexico Center for Therapeutic Riding

By Image by Samantha Waidler

Image by Samantha Waidler

Nestled just beyond the Santa Fe Airport, behind the HIPICO Santa Fe Equestrian Event Center, you will find a stable of horses whose lives are dedicated to helping children and adults with special needs at the New Mexico Center for Therapeutic Riding (NMCTR). NMCTR is a member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, or PATH International, the governing body for equine-related therapies and activities.

Our herd of eight active and three retired therapy horses all have a different body shape, size and previous discipline to provide all participants the best opportunity to accomplish their physical and emotional goals. The special bond created between the horse and the rider makes these accomplishments possible.

There are over 10,000 individuals with disabilities in the Santa Fe County alone. Since its founding in 2006, it has provided services to over 150 adults and children through several programs: Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program, School Outreach Program, Self-Mastery Program, and High School Intern Program.

Image by Ashley Armijo

The Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program provides instruction in riding and horsemanship with the goal of expanding the cognitive, physical, emotional and social skills and wellbeing of individuals with special needs, including Down Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, autism, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and others. Students of all ages and abilities learn to ride as independently as possible and gain self-confidence through individual lessons taught by a PATH International Certified Instructor.

The School Outreach Program provides therapeutic riding lessons for students from participating Santa Fe schools: Nino Otero Community School, Aspen Community Magnet School, El Dorado Community School, and New Mexico School for the Deaf. Instructors coordinate with the teachers to develop a lesson plan each week that incorporates classroom learning. This partnership is funded by the Rotary Club of Santa Fe Pancakes on the Plaza grant and The City of Santa Fe Children and Youth Commission.

The Self-Mastery Program

The Self-Mastery Program provides an equine-assisted learning program for at-risk youth experiencing PTSD, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or teen pregnancy. The NMCTR instructor and a certified youth counselor developed a curriculum of un-mounted activities with horses, to help them practice emotional self-regulation, energy management and physical awareness. This program is funded by the Santa Fe Children and Youth Commission. The Self-Mastery Program was recently developed and hopes to partner with community agencies such as The Sky Project – Suicide Prevention Program, Santa Fe Youth shelters, Santa Fe Juvenile Probation, and Foster Care agencies.

The High School Intern Program

The High School Intern Program accepts students from The Masters Program and Santa Fe Prep, who offer services in the School Outreach Project, horse care, fundraising, barn maintenance and horse exercising and training. Each teen is given class credits based on their attendance and participation.

The benefits of therapeutic riding are becoming widely recognized. Teachers, parents and medical professionals find that it enhances physical development, emotional and social growth, cognitive stimulation and life skills. Physically, it enhances fine and gross motor skills, improves balance and muscle strength. Emotionally, it increases self-discipline, trust and patience, and provides opportunities to overcome fear. Cognitively, it promotes problem-solving skills, strengthens sequencing tasks ability; and increases verbal and non-verbal communication.

How can you help?

Volunteers are always welcome to help instructors work with participants and to care for our horses. Donations of funds, goods and services keep our program going and expanding. Sponsor a horse to fund the expenses of our heroes and allow for the provision of quality care.

To get involved, please contact the New Mexico Center for Therapeutic Riding, at 505-471-2000, or go to www.nmctr.org.


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