THR Insights

From different perspectives, THR is a part of life for many people.


Nancy, senior instructor, has been instructing THR at Hanson Center since 1995:

Whether for somebody who has cognitive or physical problems, these horses are just so healing for them, building self-esteem and confidence.”

We have several children who have never spoken until they got on a horse. My student coming next, the little boy – you’ll probably see him, has rare balance issues and wasn’t able to walk until attending THR.

“Emotionally, these kids form attachment with the horse. For a lot of them, the horse has been their only way of moving transportation if they had been in a wheelchair, walker or even a carrier. Also, the horse itself – I thing many people don’t realize that even if you are just walking, it strengthens the rider’s core and help them with balance. Their body and brain are working harder without them even noticing and having fun doing it.”

“When kids are in formal therapy, the work is demanding. For kids in THR, they enjoy the process so much that they are more inspired and motivated to make effort to make sounds. They will try to find a way to communicate.”

“Lots of able adults and seniors come here and take lessons just to relieve stress from work, marriage, etc.”

“The frosting on the cake is that I was a coach for Special Olympics a few year ago. We had people who needed full assistance out there with a leader and 2 side walkers to help hold them on, and become A riders that are out there in dependent on there own after training in this very arena. It is amazing to see how much these kids and adults can achieve. And I had a couple of students who are legally blind. We would practice in here the path they would ride. They would listen to my voice instruction to get used to the obstacle path. And finally they get familiar with the trail enough that they could be out there on their own and compete against others.”

road leads to the center

road leads to the center


Anonymous parent of one of the students:

He wasn’t walking before he started this. It changes his life practically overnight. As soon as he started riding, he started to walk too, and went further and further away than a few steps. It’s the reason that made him independent. And his connections with animals are just unbelievable. This program is life changing and we waited on the list for one year and a half. I take him (the patient) out of school for it (THR), that’s how important it is. It’s more important than any other therapies he does during the week. He has 6 therapies a week and this one is the most important. He missed 2 months of therapy last winter because the snow was too heavy. You can see the difference that it makes all the differences in the world for him. I found out about this program through the recommendation of one of his other therapist and got on the list right away. We have this spot until we don’t want it anymore. I can guarantee you we are goanna be coming at this time for every week. We pay a high price for it and it’s worth every penny.”


Janet, an experienced volunteer, has been working with the center for 7 years:

“I love the horses and seeing the kids and adults and the progress they make. Their interactions with the horses are pretty priceless. It is a great thing to be a part of. I think it’s fabulous for the riders and it does many things for me personally as well. Some riders need three volunteers to finish their therapy so we are an important role in their learning experience. I just hope I am giving as much to them as what I gained from it. I think I will continue volunteering because I love it. And I go to Special Olympics with them and it has become a part of me. It is very important to me.”


Lindsey, future instructor who is still in a training program:

“THR is still an unrecognized program yet it’s so beneficial not only for the students but even for me to instruct it. I love being with horses because they are so big and powerful but so gentle and sweet at the same time. They have a sixth sense to read your emotions. There’s something about being with a majestic animal that is so calm – maybe this fact is already healing for a lot of people, especially for disabled one that don’t get many chances to interact this way.” 

“I want to help the disabled ones the same way the horses helped me. The process itself it the greatest benefit for me to raise their life quality. To part of that, I feel very lucky and am proud of what I do.

Hanson Center with snow

Hanson Center with snow


Sarah, the employed full time animal caretaker and occasional instructor:

“There are 23 therapeutic horses in the barn and 6 private owned horses. The characteristics we look for in a therapeutic horse have a lot to do with their personality instead of trained skills. Generally, horses with a calm attitude and open to human contact would be a good choice. We have two new Icelandic horses that just came in who are really gentle and sweet. It is in their nature. We also need tall, short, narrow or wide base horses to benefit the rider’s need. If a rider has a hip issue, then we can’t give her a wide base horse, which would not be suitable. Ideally for an average adult, you want a horse between 14.2 to 15.2 hands because their step phase is the most similar to human. So when patients are riding, they receive proper movement stimulation for their hips. If you have a little child, we would obviously pick a smaller horse.”

“Ultimately THR is still an elective therapy but they are receiving a lot of benefits physically, cognitively and emotionally. For me, coming here can be therapeutic after a bad day. It is just something special for them.”

“The woman who mentored me owns a therapeutic horseback riding center out in the country town. She had always lived on a farm with horses and had children with disabilities with delayed walking time until 7 years. She put one of her younger children on the horse and he started walking by 4. So she made the personal connection that maybe horseback riding can help with these physical disabilities. Then she did more research on it and got certified by PATH and finally opened her own THR center.”

the turkey

the turkey


Ruoqi, my personal experiences:

“The amazing charm about Hanson center and THR is so strong that only with one-year of volunteering with them, I developed so much passion to go back to visit and do a project on it. THR is so beneficial for people in need and so powerful and healing for people who are involved. It would be for the best if THR can gain more public recognition and support from organizations. The THR experience is life changing. Just within one short year, I have witnessed many breathless moments when kids say out loud their first words as ‘walk-on’, when those with muscle disabilities could hold on to the rope and rein the horse on their own, when those with hip issues first time stood up on the horse for ten seconds, when autistic kids first asked me how my weekend was and so much more. These moments are precious moments for their families for I would see parents pick the students up afterwards with tears on their faces. To be part of something so important to others is rewarding enough than anything else. I remember a student I assisted, she couldn’t hear, see or sit straight. The last time I saw her, she knew to reach out for a radio because she could feel the vibration of acoustics, she could sense light source and could ride with only one side walker. These progress sounds unbelievable when you think about it, such amazing things come out of this human animal connection.”

“The horses here are all lovely. Personally that was my only experience to be in close contact with horses. Each and every one of these horses has different personalities other than being calm and tolerant. I remember Lizzie. She always seemed kind of grumpy and arrogant. She’s got a lot of character for a medium sized body. She would act like she doesn’t want to attend the therapy at all. But when the rider gets on her, she just gentles down with a snap. She wouldn’t be thrilled to follow orders of the leader or instructor but was always careful with the person sitting on her back. Then when the therapy is over, she would go back to the grumpy old her as if she wants the rider off of her as soon as possible and returns to her barn with her head held up high. I connected to her a lot, trying to get her recognition but didn’t succeed in the least. She still attends therapy now. Interestingly, the larger the horse, the nicer they are. Old little Crackers is the tiniest but oldest horse here and he is still working.”

“The Hanson Center is a family. Volunteers, instructors, caretakers, office staff, horses, riders and families and cats and all the other animals on site are all members of this community. It is a precious gift for the people in the area. And if THR can get more attention from the public and gain more funds, it would only benefit more people and bring us humans and animals closer together.”




Marcia’s Place


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