Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Erin Dickerson

Mentor: Marty Cooper

Title: The Healing Power of Horses


I researched the ways in which therapeutic horseback riding helps people with various disabilities, both emotional and physical. I visited two different barns for comparison. I also created a book showing the benefits of therapeutic horsemanship. I used photography to document the different techniques that can be used. My inspiration for this project was my cousin, who is involved in a therapy program and is making great progress.


Using the information I gathered at A Horse Connection and CTREE, I created a book to help me explain how therapeutic riding is beneficial. I used the program Booksmart to create a hardcover, 20-page book. My book includes photographs of the two places I visited. I wrote introductions to each place and explained what is involved in therapeutic riding, such as different equipment, different exercises, some of the disabilities and the difference between therapeutic horsemanship and hippotherapy. I sent 10 copies to be printed. When my books were printed, my mom laminated them.

 Book Text

Book Images (Image 1, Image 2, Image 3)

My senior project was a study of the ways in which therapeutic riding can help people with various disabilities, both emotional and physical, through the use of photography. This project consisted of visiting two therapeutic riding facilities, A Horse Connection and CTREE. I interviewed the therapists at these facilities, observed the lessons given, and took pictures of the three riders I chose to focus on. For my product, I created a book.

I decided to study therapeutic horsemanship when my cousin began taking lessons at A Horse Connection in Rhinebeck, New York. Hearing about his progress, and how much he loves the horse he rides, and his therapist, inspired me to learn more. I chose to make a book instead of doing an exhibition because I could include writing, which would help me explain what photographs cannot. At first I wanted to make a book for children. But as my ideas progressed, it turned out to be more of an informational book.

I planned to visit several facilities to see the different approaches that different places have to therapeutic riding. I arranged to spend a day at A Horse Connection to take pictures, ask questions, and observe lessons.

After that visit, I began to edit the pictures and continue my research. I also asked Nancy some follow up questions on the phone. First I researched more about therapeutic riding in general, than began to learn more about the different disabilities.

I needed to find another place to visit, so I began looking for places on Long Island. About this time, I received an email that a place called CTREE, conveniently located in Sagaponack, was looking for volunteers. They only have lessons on certain days, so I had to work out a schedule for visiting this facility. I observed to different children during their lessons. Both of the children had autism, one much more severe than the other. The first time I visited I asked the therapists, Amanda Ross and Karen Bocksel, the same questions I had asked Nancy. I went back a second time to take pictures.

I began to make the book layout once I had done some more research. Once I had all the pictures, I had to figure out which ones would fit with what I had written. This was a very tedious process, because the program I used was very slow. It took a long time for the pictures to load and the text to change. A lot of the pictures from CTREE needed editing, because they were taken inside.

When my book was finished and edited, I sent it to be published. I only ordered one copy at first to make sure everything looked okay. It turned out that some of the pictures were still a little too dark, so I fixed them and ordered several more copies.

My biggest challenge was getting in touch with people. I ended up not going to CTREE until a few weeks before the product was due because my calls were not being returned. Another frustrating aspect was that the program I used to make the book was very slow and kept quitting, so it took much longer than I had planned. Scheduling was a big problem as well, because the days CTREE had lessons were the same days I had drivers ed.

At first my plan was to visit three or four places to get more perspectives, but I ended up going to just two because of the amount of time needed to arrange and visit each facility.

During the course of this project, I learned a lot more about what is involved in therapeutic riding, such as the different disabilities, the various exercises used, and the difference between therapeutic riding and hippotherapy. My goal for this project was to learn more about therapeutic horsemanship because it is something I want to pursue in college and possibly as a career.

Works Consulted

American Hippotherapy Association. 2007. Viewed 8 Nov. 2008.<>

Bocksel, Karen. Interview. 6 Nov. 2008.

Brophy, Cailin. “A Program For Special-Needs Riders.” The Southampton Press. 5 Jun. 2008: C7.

CTREE: Center for Therapeutic Riding on the East End. 2008. Viewed 10 Oct. 2008. <>.

Hunt, Alice. “Healing Horses: Three Groups Come Together.” Gazette Advertiser. 26 Aug, 2004: B9.

King, Nancy. A Horse Connection. 2008. Viewed 29 Aug. 2008.<

King, Nancy. Telephone Interview. 29 Sep. 2008.

Nickell, Carol. NARHA. 16 Jan. 2009. Viewed 8 Nov. 2008. <>

Orloff, Karen. “Horses’ Healing Power.” Poughkeepsie Journal. 5 Jun. 2005: 2F.

Pandaleon, Leslie. “Nick’s progress” Email to Erin Dickerson. 4 Dec. 2008.

Ross, Amanda. Interview. 6 Nov. 2008.

Thompson, Lauren and Joann Ferrara. Ballerina Dreams. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2007.

Community Member (Details)

Nancy King, Director of A Horse Connection