Taking the Reins 

  • "Taking the Reins" originally appeared in the June 2024 "Animal" issue of COMO Magazine

Therapeutic riding and equine therapy is trotting along in Boone County.

The Western trend has lassoed us along for the ride. Cowboy boots are displayed in clothing stores across the country, and everyone is singing along to “Pink Pony Club” by Chappell Roan. Even Beyoncé is galloping across the vast background of her latest album, Cowboy Carter. Not only is this movement celebrated and accessible in central Missouri but can also be healing.

Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center 

Healing takes the reins at Cedar Creek just south of Columbia. Since 1988, the team — led by Karen Grindler, a PATH-certified instructor, and Constance Crumpton, the occupational therapist — has been on a journey to better the lives of many with equine therapy. The center houses a sixty-acre ranch, where forest and winding trails offer the perfect backdrop for body-and-soul soothing experiences. Operating with mostly donated horses, Cedar Creek ensures riders of all ages find support, confidence, and a smile in the saddle.

“The movement of the horse is the closest thing you can get to the human walk. A horse is four-dimensional, up and down; side to side; diagonal, and forward and backward just like walking,” Grindler explained. “So for riders in wheelchairs or those with impediments to mobility, the simple act of riding strengthens large muscle groups … Mentally it [provides] self-esteem and self-confidence that comes from riding a huge, magnificent animal. And for the riders with PTSD and emotional issues, it is the friend who is there for them week after week without judgments — just unconditional love.”

Coyote Hill

The visionary behind Coyote Hill Foster Care Ministries’ equine program, Larry McDaniel has a passion for both horses and healing. Over thirty-three years ago, Larry and his late wife, Cathy, embarked on a journey to create something remarkable in a kid-friendly rural area near Harrisburg, about twenty-two miles north of Columbia. McDaniel didn’t stop there; he saw an opportunity to harness the healing of equine therapy to make a difference.

Fast forward twenty-three years, and Coyote Hill’s equine program has bloomed from humble beginnings to a sprawling fourteen-stall stable with indoor and outdoor arenas, trails weaving across three hundred acres, and a herd of twelve horses, three miniature horses, and one mule. (It’s a place where horsin’ around isn’t a figurative expression.)

From foster children to military veterans, McDaniel’s equine program has served as a sanctuary for those in need. Through therapeutic riding lessons, participants embark on a journey of self-discovery, building trust, empowerment, and emotional resilience. McDaniel’s passion for horses isn’t just about riding; it’s about creating a safe space and a step toward resilience and joy.

Sunny Oak Farm

At Sunny Oak Farm, just thirteen miles west of Columbia on thirty-five acres of rolling pasture near Rocheport, the small but mighty farm is a haven for horse lovers. From a bustling three-acre jump field to the sand arena and cozy tack room, it houses all the tools for equestrian excellence.

Under the expert guidance of owner and trainer Rosy Erganian, Sunny Oak Farm isn’t just a place to ride; it’s a community where riders of all ages and abilities come together to learn, grow, and connect with four-legged friends. With Erganian’s wealth of experience, including stints at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center and a lifelong love affair with horses, riders are certainly in good hands.

Sunny Oak believes in the power of the horse to transform lives. From adaptive riding lessons tailored to individual needs to a week-long summer day camp, packed with equine adventures, every experience is designed to foster physical, social, and emotional growth … the horses foster and nurture unforgettable moments.

Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or just getting started, there’s always room in their barn for one more. 

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