CHAPS Equine Assisted Therapy
is the product of the void left in the community when a program
offering therapeutic riding in Sheridan closed in 2002. The first
organizational meeting for persons interested in equine assisted
therapy was held in August 2003 and at that time a feasibility
study, surveys and interviews were developed to determine whether
or not this type of program would be supported by the community.
The response was resoundingly positive! We went to work to develop
a Board of Directors and community committees to create programs,
fundraise, and select a facility, staff and horses to offer the
service to Sheridan and Johnson County community members.
The founding board of directors
included Patty Bell-Lewis, Heather Bledsoe, Elizabeth Eckert,
Tom Kelly, Mike Sager, Sharyn Siler, Sue Suddith, and Jeanne Wheeler-Loveland.
Along with members of the community, this group worked to develop
standard operating procedures and guidelines that were consistent
recommendations and Americans
with Disabilities Act regulations. In January, 2004, officers
were elected. Nonprofit status was granted in June 2004, and the
first fundraiser was held over the Sheridan WYO Rodeo weekend
in July. Following that, the first annual Nite at the Races gala
event debuted in October, and CHAPS was off and running with a
bank account and budget.
The former site of the Ranch Willow Bed and Breakfast, the center features a 6 stall barn, feed and tack room, heated office and handicap-accessible bathroom, indoor and outdoor arenas and spacious turnout with over 400 acres of fields and trails available to ride on, making this venue a comfortably sized home for CHAPS.
In November, 2004, Sue Suddith
resigned from the Board of Directors and was hired to be CHAPS’
first Executive Director. CHAPS opened its doors to clients in
January 2005. Beginning with scholarship recipients from the LaRue
Young Foundation, we offered services to 7 children with disabilities
ranging from developmental disabilities to cerebral palsy. Beginning
with 2 horses and a staff of 3 part time therapy instructors,
CHAPS has grown to 43 clients, 6 horses, and 3 Therapy Instructors
(1 full time and 2 part time). We are a member center of PATH
and all therapy instructors have completed or are in the process
of becoming PATH Registered Level Therapy Instructors. Our original
short term goals are realized.