A therapeutic horseback riding program for people with disabilities that helps to improve balance, coordination, posture and muscle tone. Opportunities to participate exist for riders, volunteers, instructors and horse owners.

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:

Dr. Christine Skelly – Proud Equestrian Project (PEP) contact person 


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