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Last modified: Thursday, October 14, 2010

Horses offer hope with therapeutic riding program at IU's Bradford Woods

Oct. 14, 2010

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. -- Every summer nearly 250 children throughout Indiana and several other states come to Camp Riley at Bradford Woods, Indiana University's 2,500-acre accessible outdoor recreational facility. For 25 years, part of that summer camp experience has included Horseshoes of Hope, a therapeutic horseback riding program which has proven to be a popular and beneficial activity for children and adults alike.

"For the first time in the 25-year history of the center, the riding program continues into the winter months, thanks to a new indoor riding facility that was constructed at Bradford Woods with a gift from the Riley Children's Foundation, which received a $1.75 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support renovations and additions to Camp Riley," said John Koenig, executive director of Bradford Woods.

Horseshoes for Hope

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

Horseshoes of Hope is a therapeutic horseback riding program housed at IU's Bradford Woods, a 2,500-acre accessible outdoor recreational facility.

Print-Quality Photo

Nearly $500,000 was donated to the riding facilities, including a new roof on the existing barn, which is on the National List of Historic Places. The new indoor riding facility boasts an indoor riding arena, viewing room, restrooms and administrative offices.

Horseshoes of Hope brings together the academic expertise of Indiana University and specialists in equine-assisted therapy. John Lambert, executive director of Horseshoes of Hope, is certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), and has partnered with Bradford Woods to provide assisted riding for riders of all ages.

Lambert, who had the dream of having a therapeutic riding program, provides the expertise, the equipment and the horses for the program, while Bradford Woods provides the facility and administrative assistance. Since 1935 Bradford Woods has been a leading outdoor education center. The new riding facility is an example of the expansion of services and activities that provides a foundation for research while promoting healthy lifestyles for students and visitors.

"This facility is going to allow kids to ride regardless of the weather," Lambert said. "We'll never get rained out. We'll be able to ride when it's cold outside, and these families won't have to interrupt the progress that is made during the summer just because the leaves start to fall."

Shay Dawson, director of Bradford Woods, said that families who came for summer camp now will be able to come throughout the year for weekend camps.

"Hosting our Camp Riley campers and their family members outside of the summer months so they can benefit from the therapeutic programming at the new equine center is a big benefit," he said. "It also will prove to be beneficial for future equine-oriented conferences and groups seeking equine-assisted team-building activities. In addition, faculty interested in community health-oriented research, and IU medical or therapy-minded students seeking experiential education opportunities can come here to complement their classroom experience."

Horseshoes for Hope

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

Among the many physical and emotional improvements children and adults gain from a therapeutic riding program like Horseshoes of Hope is a sense of empowerment.

Print-Quality Photo

One family seeing the benefits of this program is Sheila Taylor and her son, Dakota, an 8-year-old boy who has participated in Horseshoes of Hope since mid-September. Dakota, who has Asperger's Syndrome, has had a hard time focusing at home and in the classroom, and has delayed physical abilities. Since joining the riding program, his behavior and physical skills have improved.

"This program teaches him so much -- his balance has improved, he is more focused and the different activities the staff guides him through are amazing," said his mother. "They have teaching tools like 'The Pony Express' -- where Dakota has to look for letters, reach out and try to remain balanced while riding his horse. He can do things he's never done before," she said.

His mother said that in addition to his physical improvements, Dakota talks much more at home about his horse, "Taffy", and he now checks books out of the library about horses.

"He reads three to four more books than usual because of his love of horses," Taylor said. "He requires less redirection and is able to stay focused for longer periods of time since starting the program."

Annie Cornett, program manager with Horseshoes of Hope, is earning her master of therapeutic recreation degree at the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER). Her experience working with this program is giving her hands-on experience. She can use the program as an extension of the classroom to fulfill the practical requirements of this specialized degree.

In addition to Horseshoes of Hope, Bradford Woods also hopes to incorporate the Horses for Heroes program, a horse therapy wellness program for veterans and active military who have sustained physical injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their time in the serving. This is a pilot program in coordination with the VA Hospital in Indianapolis. Because of the various services and accommodations Bradford Woods offers, this would be a retreat for veterans and families who are learning to adapt to a new life after combat.

"There is a spiritual connection that happens between horses and humans," Lambert said. "Children and adults feel empowered when they can ride a horse, tell it when to walk, when to stop and when to turn. It is a feeling of success and confidence that our riders need, which translates into other areas of their lives."

Editors: A free open house for Horseshoes of Hope will be held at Bradford Woods, 5040 State Road 67 North, on Oct. 17 (Sunday) from 2-5 p.m.

The public is also invited to the open house for Horseshoes of Hope at Bradford Woods.This is a FREE, public event, and guests can see the horses, the riding facilities and learn more about programs at Bradford Woods and therapeutic riding programs.

For more information, visit or call 765-352-9000.