Profile: Mary Riley
Horses and horseback riding have been a large part of Mary Riley's life since childhood. She's enjoyed a range of activities, from participating in 4‑H in her youth to barrel racing in college.
Having two sons, one with a hearing impairment, Riley began working at riding camps for children with disabilities and soon became keenly aware of the therapeutic value in bringing children and horses together.
In 1998, she joined the staff at MSU as a therapeutic riding coordinator and instructor to help establish a model program for those with disabilities and to promote the profession. In 2002, she became a North American Riding for the Handicapped Association certified instructor.
As a NARHA certified instructor, one of only two in Mississippi, Riley leads programs for individuals from all over the country wishing to earn the certification.
"Therapeutic riding is such a rewarding field," Riley said. "There are multiple physical benefits, such as helping riders develop coordination and strengthen muscles in their upper body, but it also helps build confidence, self esteem, and a sense of accomplishment when they achieve an established riding goal."
Since the Therapeutic Riding Program at MSU began, the university has received a donation of land to build the Elizabeth A. Howard Therapeutic Riding Center.
Originally accommodating only nine riders in two sessions per year, the new facility will allow the program to expand to multiple sessions with more participants.
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