Contact Us

Preschool and Summer Camp: 540-891-8751
Equestrian Center:

Hazelwild Farm
5325 Harrison Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22407
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Hazelwild Therapeutic/Special Olympics Program

Hazelwild Farm's Therapeutic Riding Program offers specialized horseback riding lessons for all ages of riders with a wide range of physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. The lessons serve therapeutic purposes by increasing stability, flexibility, strength, motor skills, cognitive ability and confidence for the riders, along with providing many other physical and emotional benefits.

We currently have riders with a large range of disabilities and challenges, including but not limited to: varying degrees of Autism, Asberger's, Cerebral Palsy, Down's Syndrome, developmental delays, mental retardation, Fragile X Syndrome, and visual impairments. Our riders have ranged in age from 3 years old to 60 years old.

The benefits of Therapeutic Riding are evident in the following areas:

Physically, it is the horse's movement that has a dynamic effect on the rider's body. The horse stimulates the rider's pelvis and trunk in a manner that closely resembles a human's normal gait. This movement can be used to produce specific physical changes in the rider, including normalization of tone, improvement in posture and balance, and increased strength.

Sensorially, the movement of the horse can help with a variety of sensory integration issues. A smooth-gaited, consistently paced horse provides needed input to help a rider establish rhythm. A rough-gaited horse may provide a rider with the stimulation to help organize and integrate sensory input. Movement exploration while on the horse helps improve overall body awareness.

Emotionally, the success of overcoming fear and anxiety helps a rider realize self-worth and increased self-esteem. The ability to achieve a riding skill also has a positive effect on the rider's self-perception. For some of the youths, the farm and barn environment, the companion animal bonding, and the development of new skills are all critical components in the success of the experience. The relationships that develop between riders, volunteers, horses and, staff are integral to the positive emotional experience that we strive to create within our program.

Cognitively, the horse provides the motivation for our riders to learn many new things. Educational goals such as letter recognition and sequencing can be incorporated into riding activities.

Socially, therapeutic riding enables individuals to interact with their peers in a group activity. Riding and the related activities are both fun and challenging.

Please contact the Equestrian Center for more information.  The forms to apply to the Hazelwild Therapeutic Program can be found in the Equestrian Center section of the Forms & Brochures page.

Our Volunteers

The program relies completely on the use of volunteers in order to operate. We utilize students from the University of Mary Washington, area high school students, as well as members of the local community. These volunteers selflessly donate their time and energy in order to help these children ride. Some of our kids require 3 volunteers each in order to be able to ride safely, others can ride with just 1 or 2 volunteers. The volunteers show up before the lessons begin, help to get all the horses groomed and tacked up, lead horses or sidewalk with riders during the lessons, and are often there at the end to untack the horses, clean up, and turn out all of our horses. Some volunteers can help for an hour, and some are there for the entire time - sometimes close to 5 hours. We appreciate any and all time given.  If you'd like to join our volunteers, please download and complete the Therapeutic Volunteer package (found in the Equestrian Center section of the Forms & Brochures page. 

Our Instructor

Kristie Torline has been with the program since 2002. She started out as a volunteer with the program and got certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) in 2003, as a Registered Level Instructor.

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