About Saddle Up!

Saddle Up! started as a dream and launched as a one night a week program - in daylight and good weather only - for 10 students. Saddle Up! is now a year-round program that will serve nearly 180 children/youth this year. Saddle Up! is the oldest and largest program of its kind in the region, and the only one exclusively serving children and youth who have disabilities. We are a Premier Center accredited by PATH International, the organization that sets the standards for safety and quality in equine assisted programs.

Our Mission

Saddle Up!'s mission is to provide children and youth with disabilities the opportunity to grow and develop through therapeutic, educational and recreational activities with horses.

Our Vision

Saddle Up! seeks to be an essential community partner enriching the lives of children with disabilities through constantly improving the excellence and accessibility of the highest quality equine assisted activities.

Message from the Director

Welcome to Saddle Up! We are grateful for your interest and eager to share our programs and our community with you.

Saddle Up! provides a recreational therapeutic riding program that makes a positive difference in the lives of 250 Middle Tennessee youth, ages 4 – 18, dealing with more than 60 types of documented disabilities.

Research indicates that horseback riding helps children with mobility challenges to gain increased balance, muscle control and strength. Children with cognitive challenges can improve concentration, recognition, vocabulary and task completion, while bonding with a horse can improve personal relationships, patience and behavior among children with psychological or emotional disabilities.

Our program is the region’s oldest and largest recreational therapeutic riding program and the only one exclusively serving children and youth. Our instructors are highly trained, and each is certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International– the national organization that sets the standards for the field. Our program is one of only five programs in Tennessee to earn the Premier Accredited Center designation from PATH.

We are proud of those distinctions because they ensure that our children are receiving the benefits of a truly excellent and safe program. But we are perhaps proudest of the heart-melting smiles and the laughs that resound in the barns and riding rings when a child who has felt all of his or her life that his limitations will always stand in in the way of being like everyone else, of feeling the joy of real accomplishment – when that child succeeds and knows the incomparable feeling of “Yes, I can!”

It’s all about our people: our talented, dedicated instructors, our hard-working staff, our helpful volunteers, our supportive parents, our willing-to-try students, our generous supporters and sponsors. And let’s not forget our so-important equine partners! Our carefully selected horses may not be actual people, but sometimes their patience and wisdom with our children make it hard to tell they’re not.

So please explore our programs and meet the incredible community that makes the magic happen as you visit our website. We welcome your inquiries and cordially invite you to help Saddle Up! as we constantly work together to improve and to serve even more children.

Some rides should never end – this is one of them.

Laurie Kush
Executive Director

Our History

In November 1989, a core group of volunteers quietly launched a dream. They wanted to give wings to children with disabilities through a program which they named Saddle Up! focusing on recreational activities with horses. The dreams of that core group have grown far beyond even their imaginations.


May 1990

The dream took flight at Helen Winter’s Schandwin Farm with 10 riders taking lessons one night a week for 12 weeks during the summer, using borrowed horses and tack. Ten students quickly grew to 30, and the core of volunteers expanded to nearly 100.


The program incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1991 and leased a barn on Highway 96 West so it could own and train horses especially for recreational therapeutic riding. Growth continued and the program moved to Leiper’s Fork where it eventually served about 90 children a year with more than 200 volunteers. Saddle Up!’s first capital campaign, launched in 1997, raised money to buy the 30-acre Leiper’s Fork farm.

2001 – Present

Saddle Up! bought its current home at 1540 Old Hillsboro Road, Franklin, in 2001. With a vision of a year-round program, the Board created a plan to provide services year-round, daylight or dark, good weather or bad, and launched a second capital campaign to raise the needed funds. The current, state-of-the-art ADA facility opened in April 2003. Celebrations featured the dedication of the indoor, all-weather Lynne Evans Arena, named for one of the organization’s founders.

In 2005 the Board envisioned further progress with the development of the 2006-2009 strategic plan. Implementation included hiring the first Executive Director, increasing outreach and fundraising, and expanding program opportunities. Saddle Up! created and launched an innovative program - the Waitlist Provisional Riders program – to address the continually increasing numbers of children waiting to enter the program as regular participants. The Waitlist program served 70 children in its pilot phase and was made year-round in 2008.

Saddle Up! Today

Saddle Up! is Middle Tennessee’s oldest and largest center offering equine-based programs exclusively for children/youth with disabilities. The program currently serves more than 250 children and youth who deal with more than 60 types of documented disabilities. Saddle Up! provides more than 5,500 hours of programs year-round at its ADA facility and 34-acre farm with a small staff and more than 500 trained, dedicated volunteers who yearly give 17,000+ hours of service as the program remains volunteer driven. Some 24 heroic horses and ponies are specially train for their life-changing jobs. Participant families are charged a reasonable fee for lessons, and efforts are made to assure that no child in need of services is turned away because of inability to pay. Generous donors and community partners, together with several major sponsors help to fund the ongoing operations of the program and fill the gap between lesson income and actual program costs.

Leadership and Accreditation

Board of Directors

Saddle Up! is blessed with a dedicated Board of Directors comprised of experienced business, equestrian and volunteer leaders from throughout our community.


Advisory Board

Our Advisory Board brings to Saddle Up! a wealth of expertise (construction, business management, communications, law and finance) that we regularly draw upon for guidance.


Staff & Instructors

Saddle Up!'s daily operations are delivered by our experienced staff and PATH International certified instructors, with the focus on safety, goals and fun in a fiscally responsible manner.


Nonprofit Profile

For information on our organization, including details on financials, operations and results, please visit our nonprofit profile on GuideStar's Giving Matters website.

Giving Matters

Saddle Up! is:

  • accredited as a Premier Center by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Hosemanship (PATH) International, the national organization that sets the standards for safety and quality in equine assisted programs.
  • the only American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) member facility in Tennessee
  • recognized for board, programs and fundraising by multiple awards in the Center Nonprofit Management’s annual Salute to Excellence
  • the creator of RIDES ®, an innovative system to set and measure individual rider goals and achievements in recreational therapeutic riding; adopted for use at several other centers

Saddle Up! was incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in 1991. For information including details on financial, operations and results, please visit our nonprofit profile on GuideStar’s Giving Matters website.

Our Facilities

Our 34-acre farm in the beautiful rolling hills of Middle Tennessee, just south of Nashville, is the right environment for children and horses to learn, work and play together. The Lynne Evans Arena provides a spacious facility for year-round, day or night riding and other activities. Barns offer children the opportunity to exercise responsibility in caring for their horsey friends. And the farm is often the site for parades, picnics, and parties where children and their families can celebrate growth and progress – and just have fun!

News, Events and Media

Quarterly Newsletters

Issue: Q1 2019
Issue: Q2 2019
Issue: Q3 2019

Keep your ear to the ground for all the hoofbeats from Saddle Up! by visiting this website often, following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, and marking your calendar for upcoming events. We love to see your photos and hear about your experiences with Saddle Up! as well. Contact us to share your stories and photos.

Contact Us

Saddle Up!
1549 Old Hillsboro Road
Franklin, TN 37069-9136
FAX: 615-794-7973

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© 2019 Saddle Up!. All rights reserved.

Program Hours

Monday - Thursday 9am - 7pm
Friday 9am - 5pm
Saturday 8am - 4pm
Please contact us during these hours for assistance. We are closed Sundays & major holidays, except for special events.

If you have questions or would like more information about our program, please don't hesitate to contact us.

About Us

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!’s mission is to provide children and youth with disabilities the opportunity to grow and develop through therapeutic, educational and recreational activities with horses.

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