Our Program

Our instructors have been certified by PATH, Intl (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship), CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association), and UW-Wisconsin River Falls.

Students learn basic horse handling and care. Depending on their capabilities, riders are responsible for grooming and helping to saddle their mounts. A typical lesson consists of riding instruction, as well as horse-related games and activities. All of our equipment meets the safety standards required for therapeutic riding.

Volunteer Training

We schedule 2 training sessions every year. If you cannot attend either session, we will have an experienced volunteer work with you the first couple of classes you volunteer.

This is a hands-on class including catching, haltering, & leading horses; safety rules when working around horses; grooming & saddling; and a mock class where we will show you the responsibilities of leaders and side-walkers. A few people may be asked to ride (if you would like to), during the training.

Wear 'barn' clothes & sturdy shoes. You will get dirty & may be walking in mud and/or dirt. No sandals or slip on shoes.

During scheduled classes, please try to arrive 30 minutes before the first class to help groom & saddle the horses.

Every summer we try to offer a volunteer class to those who want to learn more horse handling tips & who want to have a chance to ride. Typically this is before the Tuesday classes.

Check out the calendar page for class session & event dates.

Also, read the safety rules page thoroughly. We are diligent about safety & hope everyone will do their best to practice these rules daily.

Our program depends on our amazing volunteer force. We cannot provide therapeutic horseback riding without a great team of responsible, reliable, & dedicated people. If you'll be gone for a class, please ask another person to fill in for you. Without your presence, a rider may miss his ride that day.

Our History

The research to develop Red River Riders began as early as 1983 when Chris Baldwin, a 4-H Horseless Horse leader, began reading articles about therapeutic horseback riding. After 2 years of research and training, Red River Riders was born as a 4-H club with the help of a grant from the Scholl Foundation. The grant purchased safety equipment and insurance coverage for the first year.

Chris attended several seminars and clinics throughout Wisconsin, and Red River Riders became one of the first programs offered in Wisconsin. Officially organized in 1985, Red River Riders opened classes with one horse and three riders. Chris had been using Charlie, her own Appaloosa mare, for Horseless Horse instruction, and had been very confident in her ability to transfer Charlie's patience and steadiness to therapeutic work. Charlie was a horse who instinctively responded to her rider's needs. Charlie was very quiet, loved attention, was very personable, and had very smooth gaits.

With the help of several volunteers to aid during classes as side-walkers and leaders, classes began in the spring of 1986. Charlie proved to be a worthy therapist. She seemed to put everyone at ease, and loved doing her job. Classes were held in an 80' x 80' outdoor ring. A mounting block was constructed to allow the riders to reach the saddle on their own power, if at all possible.

Safety helmets were required whenever riders were working around the horse. This included grooming, tacking up, riding, and any other activities. We began using English Saddles with peacock stirrups or Devonshire boots, another form of safety stirrup. Each saddle was equipped with a hand-hold for rider security. Some riders also benefited from wearing a safety belt that volunteers could hold on to, providing more assistance to riders needing more help.

Classes last about one hour. During the hour, emphasis is put on correct position, improving posture and balance. Games are played and exercises are conducted during classes, too. We strive to increase or improve many factors for our participants. We utilize games and exercises that will improve muscle tone and strength, coordination, balance, posture, self-esteem, cooperation, learning, and more. We encourage interactions between riders, horses, and volunteers, making more people aware of the friendships that can develop at all levels. We foster respect and caring between all involved.

As time has passed we have increased to 65 riding slots each year. Our volunteer force has grown to 90+. Riders range in age from 4 years old to 75+ years old. Our volunteers are a mix of teenagers, adults, and retirees. Almost every volunteer has introduced a friend to our program, and usually that person also becomes a volunteer. For some people, volunteering only fits into their schedule once a week, but others, especially our teen volunteers, manage to come to almost every class. They become very attached to an individual horse, and also foster strong friendships with favorite riders.

I have seen many wonderful interactions between riders and volunteers, and I have witnessed growth in maturity and caring in all. I feel the benefits of this program have greatly exceeded the original expectations I began with, and I am excited to see how we can improve each year to serve our community.

Who We Serve

Red River Riders helps people with disabilities ages 4 to adult. We began giving lessons with 3 riders and 1 horse. We have served riders with hearing impairment, autism, cerebral palsy, cognitive, MS, stroke, seizures, learning, as well as many other disabilities.

How our program helps

Our riders show improved coordination, balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and body tone. This is especially true for our wheelchair-dependent riders. Riding not only exercises the body, but also exercises the mind. While learning the skills of horsemanship, our riders gain self-esteem, improved attention spans, and the ability to follow directions. These qualities carry over to their daily lives.


Periodically we need to retire one of our horses. We gratefully accept and appreciate donations of calm, quiet, sound horses. Age is not as important as disposition and soundness. We have utilized horses ranging from 4 to 30 years in age. Please call for more information if you have a horse who could become a member of our therapeutic team.