BRADLEY COOPER written by his parents (2009)

"Bradley was diagnosed with Austism Spectrum Disorder. He is high functioning but deals with sensory issues. Lights, sounds, taste, and touch can cause Bradley extreme anxiety. Bradley is now 3 ½ years old and began riding at TEC to help these issues.

By the end of his first lesson he did not want to stop. TEC worked with him following commands, brushing the horse, riding and giving Tori snacks. Bradley is overcoming his sensory issues with his horse. Tears turned to laughter as he was able to take his horse from a slow walk to a trot with the help of his TEC volunteers. TEC has helped us as parents. They recommended social stories that helped Bradley understand what was going to happen next. Imagine, we are now able to go in a grocery store, a bank drive through, get gas in our vehicle, or turn around in another direction without Bradley sobbing. Doctors have said that he is more alert and completely aware of his surroundings as opposed to a few months ago. "

Mike and Nancy Farrington

"We wanted to write to TEC to express our sincere gratitude for the outstanding program/service you have. The horseback riding program has been a huge blessing for our daughter, Meg. Meg is 14 years old and has Down Syndrome.

Meg has benefited in a wide variety of ways, some of which I will describe, but the most important of these has been the fun she has had. She absolutely LOVES this 90 minutes per week. It is on our calendar and throughout the week she will stop and point to Saturdays and say "horse riding" with a big grin on her face.

Some of the other benefits we have seen:

Confidence that comes from overcoming challenges: Meg has always been afraid of animals, even dogs. The first time she got on a horse she cried in fear. Now, through the relationship building tasks that are part of the program, she loves her horses (she rides Diamond, and Carny mostly). I know that after overcoming challenges like these she will be more confident to tackle future challenges.

Another issue we worry about with Meg is the strength of her "core" muscles. When she is riding her horse, Meg takes extra care to sit up straight and keep her feet in the right positions. The exercises of reaching behind her and in front of her and to each side while she is on the horse is GREAT exercise for these muscles.

Meg is very delayed in her speech. Her language skills are good but she does not like vocalize. Most of her statements are in wispers. While on the horse she is encouraged to say "walk on", and "whoa", and "trot" in a loud voice so the horse can hear and responds.

One of the most special aspects of your program are the staff and volunteers. When Meg comes to the barn, she is immediately greeted warmly. Meg is very in tune with peoples feelings and I know that she senses the love and caring that surrounds her. Without exception, your staff and volunteers demonstrate this love and caring - please pass on our thanks for this most of all. "

Randi Eckstein, Parent of Allie

"I was first introduced to the concept of therapeutic horseback riding in my second year of physical therapy school.  We took a field trip to a ranch in Phoenix, got on horses and did all sorts of crazy stuff like riding backwards, throwing balls, and arm exercises while on the horses.  We were given information on how these activities can help individuals with a variety of physical, mental, and emotional deficits.  It was obvious to me that this was a great therapy workout, as well as a way to build bonds with the animals.  Riding allows patients to gain confidence in themselves and their ability to control their environment (the horse).

Who could have known that seven years later I would be looking for a therapeutic activity for my own child?  My three-year-old daughter, Allie, has ataxia and muscle weakness.  She has a lot of trouble with balancing, walking, sitting up from lying down, and multiple other physical activities.  She has been through too many tests and therapies to name.  As a mom to a special needs child and a PT, my goal is to find activities for Allie that are not only beneficial for her, but are also fun.

Allie was already participating in physical and occupation therapy.  I also work with her daily at home, but was looking for something extra to add to the mix.  After researching various therapies I found TEC on the web.  It sounded like a wonderful program, so I contacted Autumn and enrolled Allie for the next session. From the first time we walked into the barn, we knew it was the right choice.


Allie was so excited over the horses, and loved caring for Tori (her first session horse).  The changes in her when she was on the horse were very notable.  A perfect example is the first session that she trotted on Tori.  If it weren’t for the side-walkers who are always there, I am guessing she would have fallen off in about 2 seconds.  A few weeks later, she was trotting, able to sit up on the saddle and hold herself there while bouncing around.  Just last week, Mara had Allie standing in her stirrups while going over poles on the ground.  Allie usually has trouble standing on her own on the floor, but being on the horse gave her more confidence.  One other wonderful aspect is that riding has given us another tool to use at home in her therapy.  We often sit on the therapy ball as she tells it to “walk on”, “trot”, and “whoa!” which is a wonderful core strengthening exercise. 


I could go on and on about the therapeutic benefits the horses provide not only in Allie, but in the other riders as well. One last thing I need to mention is that TEC has wonderful volunteers working for them who selflessly give their time and effort for these riders.  They genuinely care about the people they are working with, and I just want to thank them."

Nancy Barrett - Volunteer - 2009

1. Why did you decide to volunteer at TEC? I love horses and helping people; TEC has a mission I truly believe in.

2. Please list 3 things you like most about your volunteering and why you like them? 1. I have met many wonderful people, whom I feel are already like old friends. 2. Although I have a set day on which I volunteer, TEC is flexible in scheduling if I have another commitment. 3. I get to work with horses, which are one of God's most noble creatures.

3. What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering? I really feel like I'm making a difference in our students' lives.

4. Please tell us about any specific success that your involvement with TEC has helped you achieve and what you have seen for others. I have not had any personal successes, that I'm aware of; but I have seen a significant change in the accomplishments of a student who has been in the TEC program for several months

5. How has TEC benefited the community in terms of increasing the quality of life? I would say that the information about equine therapy that I have seen shows that students become better able to acquire the skills needed for daily life, and especially their attitude toward themselves. (Does that make sense?)

6. Is there anything that you would like to see changed? You mean besides a heated barn? Seriously, I'm too new to know what changes could be made.

Sammie Ledyard - Volunteer

1. How did you come to join the TEC organization?
My favorite things in life are children and horses (ok my husband is pretty much up there too). So when our own chidren grew up and moved out I saw an article in the paper that needed volunteers to work with my two of my three favorite things. I made the call and haven't regreted it at all.

2. What are your main responsibilities at TEC?
I began working at TEC sometime towards the end of fall 2008 doing chores, wondiering why I started when the weather was getting bad but there I was doing chores with Donna and Vicky during the winter! After getting through the winter and meeting some pretty wonderful people I followed up with volunteer training and began leading horses for spring session. Appearently that wasn't enough for me and I have since started the journey to become an instructor.

3. What things do you like most about TEC?
First, the commitment of everyone to make a difference in peoples lives as well as the fellowship. I enjoy seeing the progress of each of the riders. That really is amazing and I think it is the thing that helped me to make that decision to become an instructor.

4. What do you see as the most valuable part of your job at TEC?
I believe Every job is valuable because without the help of everyone there wouldn't be a TEC. Every job from cleaning the barn, filing paperwork, keeping track of time sheets, cleaning tack, sidewalkers, leaders, and instructors...EVERYONE is valuable. Better stated by these quotes:

Volunteering can be an exciting, growing, enjoyable experience. It is truly gratifying to serve a cause, practice one's ideals, work with people, solve problems, see benefits, and know one had a hand in them.
Harriet Naylor

The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have.
Leonard Nimoy

5. How has your involvement with TEC benefited you and your community?
When anyone volunteers (I suppose it's true for many) it seems to create a sense of purpose, a sense of growth, for me it's what I was meant to do. I also enjoy sharing who and what TEC is with my friends, family, and co workers.

6. Is there anything that you would like to see changed?
Humm, change that's a difficult question because what I see being done is being done very well thanks to the many people involved but if I had to pick one thing? Heat in the barn during lessons.

We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.
Winston Churchill

Andrea Gaul for her son Andrew

My son Andrew has had numerous health issues which led to him being homebound during the late fall and winter months. Due to this, Andrew was socially delayed and suffered from low self-esteem. Discovering a sport which Andrew could fully participate in has been challenging. Thankfully, we were directed to TEC. Andrew is able to ride "his horse" Bojack with the assistance of a leader and sidewalkers. Bojack even carries Andrew's oxygen tank! Andrew is mobile, however his ability to run is very limited. Bojack permits Andrew to experience what joy it can be to move quickly. Recently, Andrew instructed his horse to trot. Andrew was so excited. He smiled and threw up is hands yelling AWESOME!

Matt Cholewa from Clare his mom

Matt has Autism
"Matthew has had a very positive experience in his participation with the riding lessons provided by TEC.

The benefits from the warmth and movement the horse brings to Matt is not only physical but emotional as well. While riding Matt has a calmness come over him any stress he may be feeling is lessened or eliminated completely. Also, in riding Matt is given the opportunity to strengthen his body in ways that he would not otherwise have.

There are many other benefits to Matt that we are grateful for. Each lesson provides Matt with another place in the community where he can learn skills necessary to interact with others. Matt is learning what is expected, what is appropriate and is building relationships with those who give of their time.
The diverse group of individuals who give their time and resources to TEC are providing an invaluable opportunity to strengthen Matt's potential to become a contributing member of society.

We thank everyone connected with the Therapeutic Equestrian Center for providing Matt with an activity he loves and lessons he can learn."
Clare has also said that TEC is one place where her son is accepted for who he is. If he were to have an outburst at a store there would be stares and misunderstanding. At TEC we understand and work with Matt.

Lakeland Cont. Care Facility

Here's some thoughts from our senior citizen riders:

Beverly- she was scared to death to ride for at least the first 5 week. she kept coming learning to brush the horse and finally she started to ride. She has conquered her fears. Here is what she said: "I like my horse. I feel like he is my friend. I feel safe. I feel like a kid again"

Leah(this month she was featured in the Lakeland magazine for Lakeland's hospice) "I love the feeling of being on the horse. It makes me feel relaxed like being in a rocking chair but better. I connect with the horse we feel as one."

Stanley likes to ride as it reminds him of when he was a child and rode the big plow horses. He rides Missy our draft horse. He had this to say: "I like being up on the horse. He will do what I want to do. I feel like a kid again."

All 3 of these riders are on very limited incomes. They have raised money to come to TEC and the employees have also contributed so they could ride. TEC has given them scholarships but it is difficult to afford full scholarships for them each session.