Welcome to Saddle Up!, the nonprofit recreational therapeutic riding program:
“Where all children are
equal in the saddle!”
Founded in 1990 and incorporated in 1991, Saddle Up! is the region’s oldest and largest recreational therapeutic riding program, and it is the only one exclusively serving children and youth with disabilities.
Saddle Up! is also one of only four programs in Tennessee to earn the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl), the national organization that sets the standards for quality and safety.
Saddle Up!’s mission is to provide children and youthwith disabilities the opportunity to grow and develop through therapeutic, educational and recreational activities with horses.
We bring that mission to life by providing a year-round program on our 34-acre farm near Franklin, TN. For many of our riders, Saddle Up! is one of the few, if not the only, recreational programs available to them.
To ensure the safety of its participants and a quality learning opportunity, Saddle Up! requires all of its Instructors to be certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl).
In addition, we provide special training for our dedicated group of volunteers, who come from all walks of life, age brackets and locations in the area to serve in the program.
Meeting the Needs of Exceptional People Everyone involved with Saddle Up! is exceptional. Our children, parents and volunteers are the strength and foundation for our accomplishments every day.
This year we will serve nearly 190 children and youth. More than half are from Williamson County, another 34% from Davidson County, and the rest from eight other counties in the Middle Tennessee area. They deal daily with more than 50 types of disabilities as defined by federal law including: Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Pervasive Developmental Delay, Autism, non-verbal disorders, visual and hearing loss, developmental and learning disabilities, and many others.
For any child, mounting a horse can be a frightening prospect. But before long, all of the children are wearing heartwarming grins that lift the heart. The opportunity for them to leave behind the world of special classes, tutors, doctors, hospitals and medicine is often more therapy than the best educational or medical minds can deliver.
The strength of Saddle Up! parents is inspiring. Brothers, sisters, parents, friends and extended family members gather to watch their rider demonstrate their riding skills. All accomplishments are greeted with fanfare and hugs!
Our Volunteers Saddle Up! couldn’t function without the dedication of our nearly 300 Saddle Up! dedicated volunteers, who in 2009 gave 13,672 hours of service. Based on the 2008 $17.88 per hour value for volunteer service from the Independent Sector, their value in services was $244,455 – but at Saddle Up! we know they are priceless! Their skills, expertise and passion make a difference in all that we do from governance by the visionary Board of Directors, to our dedicated volunteers who serve in lessons on a weekly basis, and to those who help with the care of our horse heroes and facilities. We’re grateful to the individuals and groups that choose to serve at Saddle Up!.
More Than Just a Pony Ride This experience has multiple opportunities for students to increase physical skills, social skills and communication skills. Students develop muscle strength, balance and coordination during riding. They have the opportunity to develop increased communication skills and increased positive social interaction with their riding team. The thrill of riding a horse is an accomplishment that is immeasurable to students that have difficulty with mobility, self-control and/or communication. We have watched students begin the program that could not sit upright on the horse progress to independent riding. Parents report students have increased muscle tone. Instructors report students progressing from nonverbal status to voluntary greetings and conversations with horses and riding team members.
For our children, Saddle Up! provides more than just a good time. Research shows that students who participate in therapeutic riding can experience physical, emotional and mental rewards. For individuals with impaired mobility, horseback riding gently and rhythmically moves their bodies in a manner similar to a human walking gait. The rider must continuously contract and relax muscles to re-balance, improving balance, strength and flexibility. Saddle Up! is where “horsing around” really makes a difference.