Mary Sharp has seen clients with disabilities improve after riding horses.
As the executive director of the Due West Therapeutic Riding Center, 12001 Donahoo Road, Sharp has previously worked with therapeutic riding for many years at the Heartland Therapeutic Riding in Bucyrus, Kan. She also has taught riding and worked many years as a special education teacher.
“Ever since I worked at Heartland, I wanted to run a therapeutic riding center,” Sharp said. “It has been my dream since young adulthood.”
Due West, which held its ribbon-cutting on Saturday, is the first therapeutic riding center in Wyandotte County. People involved in the therapeutic riding program will ride outdoors on 80 acres, but there also are two indoor arenas for inclement weather, she said. About 11 horses are in the riding therapy program.
As part of her research for the new center, Sharp discovered that the biggest challenge for other riding centers was their waiting list. It can be a long wait to get into existing therapeutic riding center programs. Most facilities have waiting lists of 200, with the smallest at about 70, and most clients are on the waiting list for years, she said.
“Bill (Basler) and I decided we don’t want that to happen any more,” Sharp said. “We need to put more people on horses.”
The center’s clients will include adults and children who have disabilities including autism, physical disabilities, emotional disorders, developmental disabilities and other disabilities.
Sharp said the new riding center will offer therapeutic riding with instructors certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. Also, hippotherapy will be offered by two nationally certified therapists with the American Hippotherapy Association. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy will be offered with a licensed and certified marriage family therapist.
A Horses for Heroes program will be offered for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Therapeutic horseback riding probably will be the biggest part of the center’s program, she said.
Sharp said Basler started a training facility at the site eight years ago, and it is now expanding to offer services to people with disabilities.
Currently the center has about 64 riders, and eight riders with special needs, she said.
A little of the hippotherapy physical therapy and occupational therapy may be covered by insurance, but all of the clients now are private pay, she noted. That’s one reason the center is setting up a scholarship fund for families, she said.
A horse show, the Kansas Summer Classic Horse Show, at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 8, and Sunday, June 9, will raise funds for scholarships for the center. All different breeds will be represented at the show. The admission charge will be $5.
Sharp said she also is starting to look for volunteers, as most centers need about 120 volunteers a week.
For more information about Due West Therapeutic Riding Center, call 913-244-2771.