Want to explore how horses can be more than fun?
Sharing skills and knowledge is what the 4-H Proud Equestrians Program (PEP) is all about. Riders with disabilities and the volunteers who work with them can gain great satisfaction through this therapeutic horseback riding program.
With the help of trained and caring volunteers, riders can improve balance, coordination, posture and muscle tone. Horseback riding also increases self-esteem, self-confidence, discipline and social growth. But more importantly, riding is fun!
The Michigan 4-H Proud Equestrians Program was introduced in 1974 in partnership with Lida McCowan, executive director of the Cheff Center for the Handicapped, and with support from a three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg and C.S. Mott Foundations. Today, this equestrian program reaches out to individuals with disabilities both young and old throughout Michigan, providing opportunities to learn to ride a horse and develop horsemanship skills.
How to get involved
The Michigan 4-H Proud Equestrians Program offers opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work together as:
- Riders – Young people and adults with physical, developmental, emotional or multiple disabilities
- Volunteers – Young people and adults who assist riders as needed until the riders develop the skills they need to ride independently
- Instructors – People who teach riding, horsemanship and stable management skills; special certification as a therapeutic riding instructor for handicappers is required
- Horse owners – The “heroes” of the program are the quiet, horses and ponies, trained to respond to the needs of riders with disabilities; owners of suitable animals who are willing to loan, lease or donate to their local program are always needed
The dates and times that programs are offered vary according to community needs and resources. Some programs meet once or twice a week for eight to ten weeks during spring and fall. Other classes meet only during summer, and some other programs meet year-round.
For more information on how to get involved as a youth or volunteer, contact your county MSU Extension office or
Karen Waite, 4-H Youth Equine Specialist
4-H Proud Equestrians Program Coordinator
Michigan State University
1287J Anthony Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824-1111
April 6, 2016 | Abbey Miller | The Michigan 4-H Foundation has announced grant and award opportunities of up to $1,000 to support local 4-H clubs and county programs. 4-H volunteer leaders, members and staff members may apply for these funds.
November 25, 2014 | Janice Zerbe | Inclusive 4-H is beneficial to both youth with and without disabilities.