By Laura Gamble
June 15, 2021

Therapeutic riding at Coffee Creek

Coffee Creek Riding Center serves over 200 children a year, providing many physical benefits.

What do you think of when you hear the words “therapeutic horsemanship” or “therapeutic riding?” For me, I knew that it was mainly for children with disabilities, and it gave them an opportunity to do something, namely ride a horse, that they might not have the opportunity to do—and so much more!

Coffee Creek Riding Center was founded in 1977 by Mrs. Lucille Fancey. Lucille had a love of horses from the age of three. As an adult, she showed prize-winning hunter-jumpers and taught English-style riding and jumping. She always had an interest in the burgeoning field of therapeutic riding, and when one of her students was paralyzed as a result of a car accident, she worked with the girl until the girl could ride again, independently.

In April of 1977, Coffee Creek Riding Center opened with ten students and 27 volunteers. Now, with Mrs. Fancey’s daughter, Joy Milligan, at the helm, Coffee Creek serves over 200 children a year. Throughout the school year, children from area public schools come to Coffee Creek for therapeutic horsemanship classes, which are much more than just riding.

The classes include learning to groom the horse, which introduces the children to the horse and teaches them responsibility. While riding and with the aid of a team of three to four volunteer helpers, the students play games on horseback. The games are designed to also teach things like hand-eye coordination, speech, colors, and choice. A favorite game is basketball.

Riding provides many physical benefits because the students have to use their muscles to maintain their balance and control, and the games develop fine motor skills. The volunteers are constantly engaging the children in conversation, which develops speech and language. Many students have actually said their first words while on horseback. Students also enjoy the social interactions with other students and volunteers.

Coffee Creek has a herd of 21 horses that roam the 180-acre site. The herd includes the 11 therapeutic riding horses, four that are retired, plus several horses that are boarded at Coffee Creek by their owners.

As with most businesses, Coffee Creek had to shut down their classes for a time during the pandemic and are now in the process of re-opening. They plan to expand their summer program as long as COVID restrictions allow.

Coffee Creek Director Joy Milligan says that they ”enjoy making any difference in a child’s life.”

Coffee Creek is a nonprofit organization, and all classes and services are free. Private donations are always needed and can be made on their website. Volunteers who love children and horses are welcome, and training is provided. Volunteers do not need to have experience working with horses, although that is helpful. Coffee Creek Riding Center is located at Coffee Creek and Broadway.

Coffee Creek Riding Center Director Joy Milligan and Assistant Director Linda Cloud with a therapeutic horse (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

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About Laura Gamble

Laura is President of Redbud Advisory Group, a consulting company that she founded in 2016. Redbud, whose tagline is, “First I listen”, provides a myriad of consulting and professional development services to non-profit and small business leaders. She is a certified life coach and holds certifications in non-profit management and DISC Behavioral Analysis.