A longtime horse lover, Teresa Wilhelm called the dream of T.H.E. Center a “lifelong ambition and a constant nagging obsession.”
In 1984, that dream became a reality. With just one student – Lydia Genders – two horses, five acres of weeds, a handful of volunteers and her friend Leslie Taylor, Teresa opened the doors of T.H.E. Center. Through the lessons they provided to children and adults with disabilities and special needs, Teresa and Leslie began to change the lives of families in our community. Slowly, with Teresa’s tenacity and the generosity of our community, T.H.E. Center grew. By 1997, the weeds were completely gone and T.H.E. had grown to a herd of 10 horses, built its tack room and riding arena, and was serving 100 students per week. Teresa and Leslie gave selflessly, maintaining a full-time job while providing lessons after work and on the weekends. Teresa taught her students that there are no disabilities, just challenges. She witnessed first hand what change a horse can make in a child’s life, such as hearing a child diagnosed as nonverbal say their first word while on a horse. Together with her horses, they provided unimaginable joy and support to all their students, giving them a quality of life that many may never have known.
Sadly, that same year Teresa was forced to step down as executive director to battle breast cancer, which ultimately took her life in May 2002. However, her dream continues to live on. Today, T.H.E. Center continues to be the only therapeutic riding center of its kind proudly serving individuals of all abilities and backgrounds.
Our mission is to improve the cognitive, physical, and psychological abilities of individuals with disabilities and special needs through our therapeutic horsemanship program. We believe the bond between a horse and a human is life changing, due to the nonjudgmental support and partnership it offers. Thus, our organization is guided by the following goals:
To help students, of all abilities and diagnoses, reach their full potential.
To foster a community based on acceptance and inclusion.
To promote the life-changing impact of the human-animal bond.
Why Therapeutic Horseback Riding?
Therapeutic Horseback Riding has been recognized as one of the most beneficial forms of alternative therapy available to individuals with disabilities and special needs. The gait of a horse emulates the human gait through its rhythmical motion, thus strengthening core muscles, stimulating nerves, and improving posture and flexibility. The relationship students form with their horse is life-changing due to the non-judgmental relationship they naturally offer. As they learn to work with their horse, a student’s self-confidence and sense of self will increase. In addition, games and activities done during our lessons are geared to help students all improve communication skills, sensory awareness, concentration, and much more!
As T.H.E. Center continues to evolve and grow to meet the needs of our community, we are proud to look back at the many lives our therapy horses have touched.
- 2,000 Students Served
- 3,400 Volunteers Trained
- 93,840 Community Service Hours
From our T.H.E. Center Families
“Going through high school as a girl with disabilities and special needs is hard. I know that without having T.H.E. Center I wouldn’t be able to get through it. My lessons help give me the confidence I need to show the world what I am capable of.” -Ashley, Student.
My youngest son, Jonathan, has various diagnoses, but thanks to God and people like you who provide these services, his limitations do not stop him from living a life full of blessings, happiness, emotions, activities, and satisfaction. I say this because when my son is at a therapeutic riding lesson, or I even bring it up, his attitude changes to joy. As parents, seeing this encourages us to continue looking for new challenges to overcome in our lives.” – Adrianna, Mother of Student
“Therapeutic Horseback Riding has been an essential component on my daughter’s road to recovery. It has helped her be more open and comfortable with herself and others. The bond she has made with her horse, Roy, has motivated and helped her in coping with everything she has to overcome.” – Guardian of Student.