The Therapeutic Riding Center of Huntington Beach (TRCHB) was founded in 1990 by a group of community volunteers who wanted to provide services to individuals with disabilities in the form of Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT).
Mission and History
Therapeutic Riding Center of Huntington Beach (TRCHB) was founded in 1990 when our founder, David Allen, saw a need for equine-assisted services for several disabled residents of Orange County. Starting with one horse, a group of volunteers dedicated themselves to utilizing horses and riding to help people with disabilities. Our mission is to empower people with physical and developmental challenges to discover their greatest strengths and gain a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance, through the special relationship with a horse.
In pursuit of this mission, in 1992, we were certified through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, now known as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH), a voluntary, peer-reviewed accreditation process confirming that TRCHB demonstrates excellence in adaptive riding, incorporates best-practices, and maintains proper safety standards. In 1992, TRCHB officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Since then, we have provided our services in a private arena at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center, serving children and adults from throughout Orange and Los Angeles County six days per week.
Today, we continue to provide low-cost adaptive riding services to children, youth, and adults with a variety of physical and developmental challenges, including autism, muscular and skeletal diseases and disorders, learning disabilities, and those with vision impairments and who are deaf or hard of hearing. Through our riding sessions, we help our clients develop a “spirit that overcomes their disability.”
As we look toward the future, TRCHB is focused on building our capacity to meet the growing demand for our services. While the horse has long been considered to have value, its use in occupational and physical therapy continues to grow. Knowing the effectiveness of these services, TRCHB has begun to develop a long-term strategy for growth. In 2019, we provided services to a record 80 students per week representing 32 different diagnoses. Our goal at that time was to increase the number of students by 15% each year. As of May 2022, we have risen to servicing 120 students weekly.
Orange County has a current census of just over three million people with approximately 271,000 living with a disability, including 24,000 children struggling with hearing, vision, cognitive, and ambulatory disabilities. For many of these children and adults, physical, occupational, and speech therapies are needed to ensure the highest quality of life. Complementary and alternative services, such as adaptive riding, are often added to long-term treatment plans, adding benefits that are not easily obtained through traditional options.
Research shows that these alternative services are gaining more and more popularity; the National Institute of Health estimates that nearly 40% of Americans integrate alternative services into their health plans. For many children and adults struggling with physical and cognitive disabilities, adaptive riding complements their traditional therapies in a unique way. Unlike traditional therapies, riding forces the rider to exercise the entire body at once, and the relationship between a rider and horse can build confidence, trust, and motivation.
While research on equine services is still in its infancy, many riders, families, and doctors can attest to its benefit. Equine services are defined as a treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes. Equine movement provides multidimensional movement, which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive. The horse provides a dynamic base of support, making it an excellent tool for increasing the rider’s trunk strength, control, and balance, and building overall postural strength and endurance. The results can include greater coordination, respiratory control, and attention skills. Furthermore, many patients enjoy additional emotional and psychological benefits, including reduction in anxiety and depression and increase in empowerment and confidence. Perhaps the best benefit is that a student often forgets that they are working hard, because their riding is so much fun!
Equine services can often be costly and difficult to find. Horse ownership is expensive; the average horse requires approximately $10,000 per year in feed, stable costs, veterinary costs, and other expenses. Additionally, there are expenses for the arena, adaptive equipment, insurance, and administrative/overhead, which can make make the cost of adaptive riding programs out of reach for some. While many adaptive riding programs are offered by nonprofit organizations, the cost restricts the number of available services, and many have waitlists.
While there are almost 850 PATH-accredited adaptive riding centers in the United States, Orange County is home to only two, including our center. Furthermore, the only other provider is located in South Orange County, creating transportation barriers for many riders in other areas. The costs of these services can also be a barrier; of those living with disabilities, 29.7% live in poverty, compared with 11.7% of the general population (American Community Survey, 5-year estimates), making low-cost and local adaptive riding services all the more important.