How did the program originate?
The A&M System began exploring options for establishing a program at Texas A&M University after being contacted by Jim Grimshaw about the possibility of establishing an equine therapeutic program a little over a year ago. We were able to develop a program managed by the A&M System and supported by Texas A&M University, specifically Parson’s Mounted Cavalry, the Texas A&M Department of Animal Science, the Corps of Cadets, and through strategic partnerships with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) and Ride on Center for Kids (R.O.C.K.).
Who is Courtney Grimshaw Fowler?
Courtney Anne Grimshaw Fowler was an accomplished businesswoman and internationally ranked dressage competitor who passed away May 28, 2010, at the age of 46. This program, named in her honor, gives testimony to her extraordinary life. Courtney earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and beef cattle production from Texas A&M in 1985 and a master’s degree in public accounting from the McComb School of Business at The University of Texas in Austin.
She was involved in several community endeavors in the United States and Kazakhstan. Courtney traveled the world as a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers. A member of the United States Equestrian Federation, board member of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators and past board member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Almaty, Courtney conferred with the International Monetary Fund and gave presentations to world business and military leaders on energy and mining taxation, contract negotiation, tax policy, mergers and acquisitions. With her zest for life, limitless energy and unique sense of humor, Courtney developed a close network of friends around the world.
At the time of her death, Courtney was in the process of building her permanent home and horse ranch in Thorndale, Texas, where she had plans to begin a therapeutic equestrian program. The establishment of the Courtney Grimshaw Fowler Equine Therapeutic Program continues her legacy of service.
How is the program being funded?
The program is made possible by a generous donation from the Grimshaw family in honor of Courtney Grimshaw Fowler. This gift will be distributed over five years. Existing A&M System resources help offset initial start-up costs: the Texas A&M Department of Animal Sciences has offered the use of Freeman Arena and equipment; Parson’s Mounted Cavalry owns over 20 horses that initially qualify for the program, eliminating the need to purchase animals.
How will the program operate?
Ride On Center for Kids (R.O.C.K.), based in Georgetown, Texas, has partnered with the A&M System to provide the knowledge and expertise in equine assisted activities and therapies. R.O.C.K. will administer the management, consulting and technical assistance to ensure the success of this program. This program will be available to individuals in our community, with an emphasis on children with special needs. Additionally, as a registered member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH), we have the ability to connect our disabled veterans with the established Equine Services for Heroes (formerly Horses for Heroes) program, which connects the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and clinics with certified and chartered equine therapy centers and programs that serve our nation’s wounded veterans and improve their quality of life.
Why is the A&M System a partner?
Our goal is to provide real-world teaching experiences to Texas A&M System undergraduate and graduate students who may be interested in a career in therapeutic riding. The experiences gained and the lessons learned from this program will enhance our understanding of general therapy protocols and will bolster our medical knowledge of therapy in general as it relates to improving quality of life. As the program grows, our long-term goal is to have a world-class equine therapeutic program to improve the lives special needs children in need of these services, including our military veterans.
What benefits does equine assisted therapy provide for patients?
Individuals with almost any cognitive, physical and/or emotional disability can benefit from equine assisted activities and therapies, such as riding, driving, vaulting, or other purposeful, safe and supervised interaction with equines. Because horseback riding gently and rhythmically moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength. For individuals with mental or emotional disabilities, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem.
Individuals with the following disabilities commonly participate and benefit from equine assisted activities and therapies:
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Cerebral Palsy
- Visual Impairment
- Down Syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spina bifida
- Emotional disabilities
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Learning disabilities
- Attention deficit disorder
- Cardiovascular accident/stroke