Runnin' WJ Ranch - Therapeutic Riding Center
Since 2001, the Runnin’ W J Therapeutic Center, Inc. ('The Ranch') has provided therapeutic horseback riding to special needs children and teens. Located on 80 scenic acres near Texarkana, Texas the Ranch provides therapeutic riding on twenty-two horses in a covered riding arena and on scenic pastures and riding trails. 'The Ranch' serves Northeast Texas, Southwest Arkansas and Southeast Oklahoma. In some instances, Northwest Louisiana riders have commuted to 'The Ranch' for classes.
The riding season at 'The Ranch' approximates the school year. Several area school districts bus special needs children to the Ranch during the school day for riding classes as part of their special needs curriculum. This riding season, September through May, allows the summer months as a break for horses and riders. 'The Ranch' employs 2 full-time riding instructors. Each teacher is certified by PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) The Executive Director, Sam Clem is also PATH certified. Before riding, each child is examined by their physician and receives medical approval for riding. Each student is fitted with a helmet, and is matched to a saddle and horse. Instructors complete evaluations for each student after each class and progress is carefully monitored. Over 350 volunteers are necessary to provide riding classes. These volunteers are trained and equipped to demonstrate love to each rider to foster physical and emotional strength.
The special needs children understand only that riding horses is fun. The students don’t realize while riding the use of core strength and balance improves physical strength. In addition each rider improves socially by helping with chores related to riding (brushing, loosening girths, etc.). Students also communicate and comply with the teachers and volunteers that lead horses and side-walk (accompany) each rider.
In the past 'The Ranch' has provided classes for approximately 200 riders during a riding season. With the current grant from CHRISTUS Fund, the number of riders has been able to increase to approximately 212 students.
'The Ranch' collaborates with the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches (AFCC) and other equine organizations in hosting events in Texarkana. 'The Ranch's background with horses makes it a logical host for these organizations and enlarges the outreach of the Ranch to involve others in therapeutic riding. As horse-lovers with a heart for special needs children, these partnerships develop naturally.
As partners, the CHRISTUS Fund expands it healing outreach to the children and families of special needs children and teens.