Equine Assisted Activities for Children & Adults with Special Needs

Research has shown that the rhythm and symmetry of a horse’s movement are perfect tools for improving a rider’s posture, balance, verbal communication and muscle control. Riding also improves concentration, memory and sequential thought processing, and can even help emotionally challenged riders articulate their feelings. Improvements often are rapid because the riders are having fun, hardly noticing that they are performing repetitive exercises that strengthen body and mind.

At Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Therapeutic Riding program, students 4 years of age and above participate in 25-30 minute weekly sessions with PATH, Int’l certified instructors, volunteers and our amazing horses. We stress reaching goals and having fun in a safe and rewarding environment.

Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) teaches and supports life skills through guided horse interactions.  Planned learning experiences, from observation to grooming, to working with the horses in the barn and in the arena, are designed to support the growth goals of participants as determined by themselves and their team.  Participants gain self-confidence and self-esteem while learning how to work with such a large and powerful creature. Additionally, horses use mostly non-verbal communication and are in tune with human behavior.  This allows them to help participants better understand and learn how our non-verbal communication might be influencing or impacting others in their lives.

Therapeutic Riding & Equine Assisted Learning Program Schedule

Our lessons run every afternoon except Mondays, as well as Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Every tenth week, the program has a week off to let the horses rest and the instructors prepare for upcoming lessons.


Please note that the program runs at full capacity.  Our wait list grew exponentially over COVID, and we are working hard to expand capacity the best we can in order to serve as many individuals as possible.  However, our current wait time is extremely long, 18-24 months at minimum.

Meet the crew members who make Therapeutic Riding possible:

Interested in being placed on our wait list? Wait list registration forms can be found here:

Contact Us!


Tuesday–Friday: 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Closed Monday

*Please note that staff are often at the barn in the morning and lessons in the afternoon


6523 Helen Woodward Way

P.O. Box 64

Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067

858-756-4117 ext. 321

Due to Hurricane Hilary, all  departments will be closing at 3pm today.  Stay safe!