BRISTOL – Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center will be hosting the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) this April and people can register now to attend.
The conference will be held Friday, April 22 through Sunday, April 24. Members of PATH will meet that Friday and Sunday at Shepard Meadows at Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center at 733 Hill St. That Saturday, April 23, they will meet at DoubleTree by Hilton at 42 Century Drive.
PATH was established in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association to promote safe and effective therapeutic horseback riding throughout the U.S. and Canada. Shepard Meadows is one of six PATH certified centers in the state. There are 873 centers in the U.S., Canada and Europe which Shelly Pope, executive director of Shepard Meadows, said includes 8,000 individual members that serve 70,000 men, women and children.
Pope was the state representative for PATH from 2020 to 2021 and Emily Eschner, program director of Shepard Meadows now holds that title for the 2022 to 2023 term. Pope said that that the conference is expected to draw more than 100 people.
“We will have 10.75 hours to discuss our continuing education programs,” said Pope. “We will talk about a wide range of subjects including how we help people to select horses that are a good match for them and our disability education programs.”
While Shepard Meadows does serve people with disabilities, it also provides equine-assisted psychology programs, programs targeted toward veterans and more. Pope said that visitors also include students in after school programs and local seniors.
Shepard Meadows saw increased visitors during covid-19 and will have a full roster of programs this spring and summer.
“We have a waiting list,” said Pope. “People were looking to do something that’s outside, safe and relaxing.”
Pope said that many have found it therapeutic to be able to sit outside and look out from the hill at the horizon, enjoying the tranquility of being in nature. The horses, she said, provide a comforting, nonjudgmental presence.
“Horses don’t care what kind of home you have or how much money you make,” she said.
Shepard Meadows has 10 horses, a rescue mule, a miniature horse and three goats for visitors to interact with. Pope said that many of the animals are older and have had plenty of training for interacting with people.
This fall or winter, Pope said, Shepard Meadows will be constructing a new, 800 square foot barn and learning center with 14 stalls. Their current facility has four stalls. This past year, they also completed an indoor riding area.
For more information on Shepard Meadows, visit shepardmeadows.org or call 860-314-0007.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.