Observe a session at Camelot Therapeutic Ranch and it soon becomes clear, this is not just a pony ride. Against the backdrop of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, children and adults with physical disabilities build strength, confidence and independence, as they learn to care for and ride the non-profit’s specially trained horses.
It’s a demanding curriculum that covers every facet of horsemanship, including riding, driving, grooming, training, showing, veterinary care, tack maintenance and more. As students learn to care for their horse, they learn to care for themselves. “Independence in the saddle correlates to independence at home,” emphasizes Mary Hadsall, the organization’s executive director.
That singular objective, empowering individuals with physical disabilities, is evident throughout Camelot’s barrier-free, wheelchair-accessible facility. From the mounting ramps to the ADA-accessible horse stalls, it’s possible for students to saddle, ride and groom these horses with minimal help.
“I was once told by a parent that ‘when the child is stuck, the whole family is stuck,’” Mary recalls. “We work alongside each and every rider to help them move forward in their lives.” It’s a philosophy that’s clearly working. Many students who have completed Camelot’s program have gone on to fulfill their goals of higher education and community leadership. Some also choose to return as volunteers, mentoring new students and leading by example.
“The ripple effect of Camelot is so large,” Mary insists. “The confidence and self-worth created here through the magic of equine-assisted activities is making a big different. Simply put, animal therapy works.”