Hempstead Business Highlight: Connect with On Track Riding Academy

Horses can be therapeutic in more ways than one. Just take it from the folks at Hempstead’s On Track Riding Academy, a local nonprofit that provides first-class lessons to riders of all abilities. Owner Amy McCaffery opened the academy to create safe and therapeutic environment for her clients.

What makes On Track Riding Academy unique is the hardworking volunteer staff. The academy’s highly trained instructors are certified through PATH international, which allows them to facilitate therapeutic riding for a variety of diagnoses including, but not limited to, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, traumatic brain injury, stroke, autism and language disabilities.

A man in a wheelchair pets a horse at On Track Riding AcademyOne benefit of therapeutic riding comes from the natural gait of a horse, which simulates the rhythm of a human walk. As the horse steps forward, the rider mimics the hip movements able-bodied individuals use when walking. So, not only does the horse provide a calming presence, but it provides physical exercise, too.

“These clients of ours don’t really get an opportunity to participate in everyday activities like able-bodied people would,” Amy said. “This gives them an opportunity to do things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”

Amy fell in love with horses at age 5, after a horse behind her home welcomed a newborn foal into the world. She can still remember her first time in the saddle and hasn’t stopped riding since that fateful day. Amy is professionally trained in all disciplines but found her passion was therapeutic riding after working with clients that were part of a program at her previous job.

In addition to therapeutic riding, On Track Riding Academy offers Western and English riding classes.

For those unfamiliar with the different riding styles, Amy compared Western riding to the way a cowboy would ride a horse. The saddle has a horn in the front, which is typically used for roping purposes on a ranch. Barrel racers also use this style. English riding requires a more refined saddle with closer contact for the rider. This is often associated with riders in the Olympics and requires more jumping.

Although English riding is most often associated with being “equestrian”, Amy took issue with the phrasing.

“We’re all equestrian,” she said with a chuckle.

The instructors at On Track Riding Academy have a number of “favorite” experiences to share, but many of those top memories come from the years of practice and perseverance their clients put into riding. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s On Track Riding Academy participantsTop Hands Horse Show, made possible by the Special Children’s Committee, is another favorite among instructors and riders alike.

Amy fondly recalled a rider who had been training at On Track her entire life — and who recently won her first belt buckle.

“I’m not her instructor anymore, but I was in the photos with her,” she said. “Another client has been riding with me for several years and a few years ago he won his first buckle, too.”

At On Track Riding Academy, working with animals that naturally provide therapeutic assistance is a magical experience. They hope to open up to the Hempstead community by participating in events and providing opportunities for others to get involved, as well.

“We love what we do. That’s why we do it,” Amy said. “We’re a nonprofit, so we don’t do it for anything but the people.”

On Track Riding Academy is always looking for volunteers and new riders. Visit their website or follow the OTRA Facebook page to learn more about their programs. If you’re ready to start riding or just eager to get involved, you can email or call 346.412.0014. 

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