Starting a therapeutic riding program?
When I was in college I volunteered at a therapeutic riding center and absolutely loved it. It was an incredible experience and I couldn't believe how much these sessions helped the students, it was incredible! Now I own a riding academy on the other end of the state and we don't have any therapeutic riding centers in our area at all. Id love to volunteer again but as far as I can tell, the closest one is 10 hours away! So, I'm wondering how I can even begin to learn about beginning a program in our area? I think it's such a wonderful thing! Do I need to find registered therapists who will work with the student and I provide the therapy horses and handlers? I've looked into the PATH organization, are there any other organizations or any other advice anyone can offer? Thank you!
All I can say is that you have your work cut out for you. The lady that I used to volunteer with put in a TON of work organizing, setting everything up, and running the program. Very rewarding work, but it'll be a lot of it!
I can't say I have much advice for you, except to check out the Grants and donations available. I'm sure there are many to help get your program started!
Also (correct me if I'm wrong) the horses stay primarily at the walk? You can often find walk-sound, children broke horses for free as their owners no longer want them.
Just toss'n out ideas!
I started one years ago, it was a LOT of work to set up and get off the ground, but well worth it. You will want to register it as a charity, so look into that first. You will also probably need a board of at least 3 directors, to be eligible for charity status. Speak to local physiotherapists, riding instructors, etc. You will be surprised how many of them are willing to volunteer their time and expertise. It doesn't hurt to have a few experts on the board, as well. My farrier was on my board, and he did all the horse's feet for free. There is a very good book called "Aspects and Answers" which helped me a lot when I was getting started. Also there are many grants available. I am in BC and I got a very good start-up grant from the BC Lottery Corporation. But go online and look into grants in your area. Good luck, and if you have more specific questions feel free to pm me, I will try to help if I can.
Congratulations on a wonderful undertaking!
I am currently going through this process as I open up my simulator and facility to veterans (I spent some time in Afghanistan and am from a military family, so this is a deeply personal project).
First step - you need to become a recognized non-profit both in your state and federally. You can do business as a non-profit without federal recognition, i.e. 501 status, but donations are not tax-exempt so it will severely hamper donations; without 501 exemption you are also ineligible for government-offered grants.
Establishing a non-profit corporation in your state is easy, requires a few forms and a small deposit. The federal process, however, is a 50-page application that can take up to 6 months to be processed once it even reaches the IRS. Follow-up calls and questions are common, so to be blunt, you absolutely need a lawyer to manage this process for you, or be available to consult. The good news is that pro bono representation may be easier than you think to obtain, so start asking around!
The IRS requires 3 people to sit on a Board of Directors, and 2 additional folks to serve as officers - you need a President and a Secretary, and they cannot be the same person. Technically you also need a Treasurer, but your President can double as the Treasurer.
The other big cog in the wheel is insurance. Because my operation is the only of it's kind in North America, Markel is literally the ONLY carrier who would insure me. For traditional therapeutic riding programs, many carriers will only insure PATH-accredited facilities, or make non-PATH insurance so expensive as to be prohibitive. Make insurance calls early, because what you can and cannot find insurance for may dictate the shape of your operation.
As you start determining whether you can afford to open and operate a non-profit riding program, remember that your facility will have to meet ADA standards, and everything is expensive. Depending on the size of your operation, you need to research costs for equipment purchase (ramps, hand rails, specialized tack and saddles large enough for limited range of motion, etc.), equipment maintenance, adapting facilities you already have (such as making restrooms accessible and leveling uneven ground), licensing fees, barn hands, instructors, volunteer training, office and administrative supplies, and so on.
The bottom line with the above is research, and start moving on the administrative side of the house immediately. While you wait for your 501, research, research, research! Do not take out a loan - open a smaller or more limited program if you have to - and seek out donors and grants once your 501 is in hand.
Hope this helpful, and good luck! This is a truly rewarding line of work, and I am thrilled you are diving in, as I know your community and future riders will be, too :)
Does anyone have an idea of how many therapeutic riding centers there are which are not PATH accredited?
There is no organizational body I know of that tracks non-PATH accredited specifics.... they're the big one for insurance purposes, so the numbers tend to revolve around them.
Are you working toward opening a center?
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