Horse-assisted therapy program for youth gets $222K grant

Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association has been providing its program for physically, mentally and emotionally-challenged people since 1971.

Association hopes to nearly double number of participants over three years

Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association instructor Erin Storey with Eric Fantin and horse Cody. (Dale Molnar)

The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association has received $221,900 to expand its program that helps develop social skills for youth.

Funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, announced Friday, will go toward the association's HOOF program (Horses Offering Outstanding Futures).

The riding association has been providing its program for physically, mentally and emotionally-challenged people since 1971.

About 200 youth per week take part. The new funding could add 175 more people over the course of three years.

"It teaches youth to be accountable, to be confident, to be interactive with other people and the horse is really non-judgmental and it helps youth to sort of interact with each other as well." said Rebecca Mills, the association's managing director.

The first 11-week program with the new students starts on Jan. 9.

"We're finding that youth who are facing some barriers — not able to attend school, not having a great social life — are feeling more empowered when they leave here," Mills said. "They continue to come and we just feel like we want to expand that program and make something a little more structured."