Spirit Therapeutic Riding Center offers healing through horses


Spirit TRC offers healing through horses Photo courtesy of Spirit TRC

Megan Rogers, News Editor

Horses, healing and hope take the reins at Spirit Therapeutic Riding Center (Spirit TRC), located on Sorenson Road in Ellensburg. Spirit TRC was founded by Evelyn Pederson in 2006, after she went through a challenging time in her life and started volunteering at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Redmond, Washington.

Pederson said that she started driving for two hours every Saturday. The director of Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center asked Pederson if she would like to volunteer for more than one lesson to make it worth her time. The director then asked Pederson if she would like to job shadow an instructor. 

According to Pederson, it became her dream to open up a therapeutic riding center in Ellensburg. She said she is happy to allow the participants of Spirit TRC to be truly who they are, and that she has learned something from all of them each week.

“You will see a tear of joy in my eye and a smile on my face as I watch you transform and heal,” Pederson said. 

Pederson said she is the vessel to allow the magic to happen between the participant and horse, all the while keeping them safe.

According to their website, the mission of Spirit TRC is to “provide equine-assisted activities to individuals with physical, emotional and learning disabilities, as well as senior citizens and challenged learners.  We focus on capabilities and promote independence.”

According to their website, the therapy programs available include Therapeutic Horsemanship and Riding, Life Skills, Reading Round Pen, Senior Support and a Summer Camp Program.

“Our therapeutic riding and the horsemanship are for people with… learning, emotional and physical disabilities,” Pederson said. “We do a lot of cross-body things and that fires the brain in different ways, and there’s a beautiful peace and calm that you get to witness during that time.”

Ellensburg community member, Nancy Kibler, has been taking her son to Spirit TRC to participate in the therapeutic riding program after he was diagnosed with PTSD. 

“He couldn’t focus,” Kibler said. “School was a nightmare … His heart was always racing. He was always looking around …I was just searching and praying, of ‘where’, ‘what can I do’, ‘how can I help him, ‘how can I help me,’ because I knew I needed to do something.”

After seeing a float for Spirit TRC in the parade, Kibler said she decided to call Pederson and Pederson was able to give her insight into how Spirit TRC could help her son.

“His horse was Captain,” Kibler said. “I think the horses [and] just their gentle, rhythmic movement was just a constant and they were safe … He could love on them, and they wouldn’t reject him.”

Kibler said that after a while, she saw her son start to become a different kid. She said her son’s counselor even suggested that he stop seeing them and just go to Spirit TRC, because the counselor felt he was getting more out of it. 

“Just the independence that he gained, the self-confidence, he gained the ability to feel grounded,” Kibler said. “He will be okay … this is our safe place.”

Pederson said that volunteers play a vital role in the riding therapy. One volunteer will lead the horse and two will walk on either side of the horse when working with clients. 

Geri and Tom Lund are two of the volunteers that help with the side walking and horse leading. Geri Lund has been volunteering with Spirit TRC for five years, and Tom Lund has been volunteering for four years.

“With Geri, I think it was she was looking for something to do that was helping children that are special needs and also working with horses,” Tom Lund said. “I saw the wonderful feeling or mood she came home [in], the high it gave her from working with these kids. I started volunteering because I thought this looks really neat.”

Tom Lund said that being able to work with these kids is special because some of them are non-verbal and don’t make eye contact, but then one day they will look at you or reach out and touch your hand. 

Geri Lund said a favorite memory for her was volunteering for lessons for a kid who was nonverbal and also didn’t touch anyone. 

“At the end of the year…he would start grunting, he would touch your hand and he grabbed it just to hold it, which was just amazing,” Geri Lund said. “You can see how he progressed throughout that year and that totally amazed me and he’s still going there today.”