North American Riding for the Handicapped Association
North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) is a non-profit organization based in Denver, Colorado that promotes the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding for people with physical, emotional and learning disabilities.
NARHA is a 501(c)(3) organization.
NARHA’s mission statement: “NARHA changes and enriches lives by promoting excellence in equine assisted activities.”
The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association was formed in 1969 to promote equine assisted activities for individuals with disabilities. With over 700 member centers, a total of more than 38,600 children and adults find a sense of independence through involvement with horses. These member centers range from small, one-person programs to large operations with several riding instructors. In addition to horseback riding, a center may offer any number of equine assisted activities such as driving, vaulting, trail riding, competition, ground work, or stable management. Through a wide variety of educational resources, the association helps individuals start and maintain successful programs. There are more than 29,000 volunteers, 1,900 instructors, 5,800 program equines, and thousands of contributors from all over the world making a difference in people’s lives at NARHA centers.
Beginning in 1969 NARHA has ensured that therapeutic riding is both safe for, and accessible to, those in need. Since that time the field of therapeutic riding has expanded along with the numbers of individuals profiting from involvement with horses. Today NARHA represents a growing number of equine assisted activities, including recreational riding for individuals with disabilities, driving, vaulting, competition and other recreational and educational interactions with horses.
NARHA provides opportunities for people with varying ability levels to challenge themselves physically and emotionally and to set goals to improve their quality of life via the horse. Training professionals to support and facilitate this process, educating the public about the positive impact of the human/animal bond and setting national standards for safe and effective equine assisted activities are part of NARHA's long-range goals.
Center accreditation programs ensure high quality and safe provision of equine assisted activities offered by NARHA centers across the U.S. and Canada. Just as other professions use accreditation and licensing systems to improve the well-being of their industries, professionals in the field of equine assisted activities have a distinction of their own through the Premier Accredited Center Program. The Premier Accredited Center (PAC) Program, give centers the chance to demonstrate their excellence in providing quality equine assisted activities.
This voluntary process recognizes NARHA centers that have met established industry standards. The accreditation process is a peer review system in which trained volunteer site visitors inspect and review centers in accordance with NARHA standards. A center that meets the accreditation requirements based on the administrative, facility, program and applicable special interest standards becomes a Premier Accredited Center (PAC) for a period of five years.
NARHA provides certification for riding, driving and vaulting instructors. Registered, Advanced and Master level certification are available for riding instructors. Instructors that teach at NARHA Centers are required to achieve NARHA Instructor Certification status. Instructors may apply for any level of certification that they feel they are qualified to achieve, as long as the application criteria for that level are met. The criteria at each level details the skills and knowledge an instructor of that level must have regarding Equine Management, Horsemanship, Instruction, Teaching Methodology and Disabilities. All evaluations of instructor applications, at all three levels, regardless of certification method, are based on these criteria. NARHA also supports regional conferences for continuing education and hosts a national conference each year. In 2008, the national conference will be held in Hartford, CT. The dates are October 29- November 1.
All members of NARHA receive NARHA STRIDES four times a year. This engaging magazine is an accurate industry journal that focuses on the work of NARHA. Rider profiles, how-to articles, editorials and instructional columns seek to educate a general readership of the diverse aspects of equine assisted activities. Each seasonal issue carries a theme.