COS Living Well Magazine's interview with Shannon Mitchell, Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center’s Executive Director
LW: Describe your passion for the mission.
PPTRC: Our mission is to change the lives of individuals with unique needs by partnering with the horse. The feeling you get when you are around these majestic animals is unmatched. I know if a horse can completely flip my day from bad to good, they can do that, and so much more, for someone that is in need. I have seen kids speak their first words on the back of a horse, people start walking because of this therapy and people hug their loved ones for the first time in years because of what they learned from their therapy horse.
LW: What is your best memory from this past year?
PPTRC: My best memory from this past year was a particular gentleman that had really struggled with PTSD and finding a therapy that would help him. He was on the verge of taking his own life when someone suggested horse-centered therapy. Once he built up the courage to enter the arena it was many weeks before he even felt comfortable near the horses. By the last week he had built confidence and was able to lead the horses around with little to no resistance.
During one particular session he was really emotional, saying he could feel the weight he had been carrying lifted. He no longer had urges to commit suicide, he had re-established relationships with his family, and he ultimately felt like he could live his life again. It was one of the most amazing things I have witnessed during my time with the organization.
LW: How has your program improved over time?
PPTRC: When PPTRC was founded in 1981 it was a small backyard organization who served only a few people each week. Since then we have grown to serving approximately 120 clients each week and we have a wait list of over 40 people.
LW: What are the biggest obstacles that inhibit your mission and how do you plan to overcome them?
PPTRC: One of the biggest obstacles we face is the inability to bill insurance for many of our services. Equine therapy is still considered an experimental treatment by insurance companies. This makes it difficult to serve everyone who needs our services. To overcome this obstacle we continue to look for additional funding opportunities to give us the ability to serve those whose insurance won’t cover their treatment.
A second obstacle is a lack of space at our current facilities. In the coming year we are dedicated to working with our landlords and finding ways to expand our footprint at both of our locations. We are also looking to build additional community partnerships, which will allow us to provide services at additional facilities and therefore impact more lives.
LW: What are your biggest needs for 2018?
PPTRC: Additional funding. With an ever growing wait list, we continue to look for new ways to fund additional clients. Every client who participates in our services (currently 120 per week) receives an average of $5,200 in supplemental funding per year. In order to expand our services to the people in the Pikes Peak region who so desperately need help, we need additional funds.
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Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center