The Pegasus program utilizes the horse and its movement to enhance the quality of life for our clients. Our mission is to provide therapeutic exercise in various forms while concentrating on ability rather than disability.
Background & History
Pegasus Riding Academy, Inc. was founded in 1982 by Carol and Rich Tatum. When we first started treating clients, we served only fifteen mildly disabled children a week. The program was limited by the weather since all of the lessons were conducted in an outdoor riding arena at the Solly Avenue Stables located in Northeast Philadelphia. Carol's love of horses and strong desire to help the disabled community combined to create an individual who was not only a gifted therapeutic riding instructor, but also a warm, loving and dedicated person who was a friend and inspiration to all. Under her leadership, Pegasus grew into a year round, full time program. In 1989, Pegasus Riding Academy, Inc. moved to its current location at 8297 Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. We operate on Fairmount Park Property and have a long term lease to utilize the public trust lands and benefit people with disabilities. The indoor riding arena and barn to house the horses was completed at the end of 1993. Funding was in place before any new construction was planned and over the next several years the complex was finished. This state of the art facility allows us to provide year-round therapeutic riding, which enhances the lives of numerous individuals with disabilities throughout the Delaware Valley. On November 9, 2005, Pegasus' founder and executive director, Carol Tatum, passed away, losing her battle with breast cancer. Although Carol is no longer with us today, she lives on in our hearts and we honor her memory by continuing her legacy.
Pegasus is a member of PATH International (Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship) and the Pennsylvania Council on Therapeutic Horsemanship, organizations which seek to ensure the quality of therapeutic riding programs. The Pegasus program, which currently serves approximately 100 participants each week, draws its client base from residents of Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Since Pegasus is the only therapeutic riding program located within Philadelphia, it enables us to serve a diverse population on many levels. We serve both children and adults. Our riders represent numerous physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities and we receive referrals from more than forty area health agencies, rehabilitation centers, hospitals and schools for children with disabilities.
One of riding therapy’s unique components is the movement of the horse. This movement has proven extremely effective in establishing or re-establishing balance, coordination, and perception, when compared with static therapy treatments. The movement of the horse mimics the human gait by being rhythmic, repeatable and three-dimensional; all movements needed to simulate normal walking patterns. It so closely resembles our human gait that it helps physically challenged children discover the rhythm needed to initiate their own independent steps. Being astride a horse not only helps establish walking, it can also improve the quality of walking. Where walking is not a realistic goal, the horse’s steady movement stimulates the brain and neurological system as well as the hips and legs, preventing atrophy of walking muscles. Clients take an active role in their own therapy, often reaching goals more quickly because of their increased motivation and commitment. Additionally, with more children being diagnosed with autism every day, equine assisted activities and therapies have come to the forefront as a progressive treatment. Many in the medical community believe there is a special connection between horses and children with Autism because both interpret the world pictorally. The things that horses observe are the same things that children see and react to, making them more in sync with each other. As this bond grows, progress such as eye contact, facial recognition, and interaction become possible with many riders.
The benefits of riding are not exclusively physical, nor are they limited to clients with physical disabilities. Riding therapy has been found to be dramatically effective with mentally and emotionally challenged individuals by improving their socialization, personal development and self-esteem. Such improvements often grow out of building trust with the instructor and the clients’ relationships with their horses. Bonding with a horse enables people to communicate easily with the staff as well as others in his or her life. Participation in routine grooming and tacking of the horse, as well as competing in events such as the Handicapped Riders Division of the Devon Horse Show, gives our riders the opportunity to develop self-discipline and a sense of accomplishment.