Texas Tech University

Therapeutic Riding Center Celebrates 20 Years in the Saddle

Norman Martin

January 18, 2019

Theraputic Riding Center training

Patients or visitors with disabilities and special needs use horses and work with certified therapeutic riding instructors.

Texas Tech University's Therapeutic Riding Center (TRRC) recently reached a milestone, celebrating two decades of service and research with equine therapy.

Launched in the fall of 1998, the center had a humble beginning with only a budget of $500 and two borrowed horses. Since then, it has received donations and funds that have helped transform it into a resource for people who can benefit from therapeutic riding and hippotherapy.

Today, it's a Premier Accredited Center through Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, and provides weekly services using 17 horses and four certified therapeutic riding instructors to about 75 child and adult riders who have a variety of disabilities and special needs.

Hippotherapy sessions involve an occupational, physical or speech therapist who uses a horse to reach the goals therapists have for their rider, while therapeutic riding involves incorporating a rider's therapeutic goals with the skills needed to ride a horse. The course is taught by certified therapeutic riding instructors.

In 2018, the Equine-Assisted Counseling and Wellness Clinic became the newest program to offer services through the Therapeutic Riding Center. Equine-assisted mental health sessions involve horses helping humans accomplish their mental health and wellness goals with the guidance of a qualified mental healthcare provider.

The center is located at the Texas Tech Equestrian Center, about 7.8 miles southwest of the main campus, and has partnerships with therapists from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock Early Childhood Intervention and private therapists.

Leslie Thompson, co-director for center and a professor of food science and safety with Texas Tech's Department of Animal & Food Sciences (AFS) in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, joined the center 14 years ago. She has seen how it's helped so many people. She credits Heidi Brady, co-director for TTRC and a professor in AFS.

"If it weren't for Dr. Brady, everything in here wouldn't be," Thompson said. "If it weren't for her, there wouldn't be research in the industry that proves that this works and how."

Brady is a diplomate with the American College of Animal Physiology in the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and is a certified therapeutic riding instructor within the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International organization. She co-authored two textbooks, "The Comprehensive Guide to Equine-Assisted Therapies" and "Activities and Horses in the American West: Portrayals by Twenty Four Artists."

In recognition of her lasting commitment to teaching and service, Brady received the 2018 Non-land-grant Agriculture and Renewable Resources Universities (NARRU) Distinguished Educator Award. Her research areas focus on hippotherapy, therapeutic riding and equine management.