University of Vermont AAHS

Riding for the Disabled

[reproduced from Fall 2002 Caution:Horses]


ďTeaching riding to the disabled should still be teaching riding within the scope of the ridersí physical and mental capabilities, says Jane Kellerman. 

Jane Kellerman is a certified physical education teacher (Kent State University, 1973).  She has been a Certified Handicapped Riding Instructor since 1979, one of the first six ever certified in the United States.  She received her NARHA Master Level in 1992, one of the first six ever certified by NARHA.  She is a Certified Adapted Physical Education Teacher and a Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant.  She is a Certified Multi-Handicapped Teacher at Wright State University as well. 

Kellerman established Bridge Riding for the Disabled in 1987 and remains as the director/instructor.  

A family picture shows Kellerman at six months on a horse with her dad.  She got her first pony when she and the pony were both five-years-old.  She showed hunters as a teen and dressage, hunters, horse trials, and some side-saddle as an adult. 

She is a whipper-in for the Miami Valley Hunt. 

Kellerman is a vice-president, clinician and one of the founders of the American Association for Horsemanship Safety. We are featuring her pictures from the 2002 Ride-A-Thon at the Caesarís Creek State Park in Ohio. 

Jane Kellerman


Mounting is a team project.  The horse must be willing to stand still until the rider is settled on the saddle.  The mounting block is a platform that three people can easily stand on.  There are two large steps leading to the top.  We always dismount to the ground with assistance for the rider as needed.  This young man has great difficulty controlling his legs.  He uses a wheelchair or walker for mobility.  His greatest fear is falling with nobody to help him.  He now only talks about falling just after mounting.


The rider moves independently using a walker.  In lessons, he stands in a modified two-point over poles.  It is very important that he leans forward to stand with his feet under him  This activity helps him when he sits and stands during the day.


This riderís mother says she is happiest when sheís on the each or on a horse.  Her mother also reports that she is more relaxed with less tension in her shoulders for about three days after riding.  We see her become more relaxed during a lesson with less off target behavior.  She tends not to use her hands; her she is holding on.  In place of a saddle, we are using a vaulting circingle.  This allows the rider to feel all the movements of the horse. We find this helps many of our autistic riders.  The pony is a Haflinger with a very steady gait.


This rider started with us this summer.  Her goals are increasing balance, attention, confidence and self-esteem.  While waiting to ride, she paced continually and canít stop.  Once on the horse she is quiet and attentive.  She was paired with two steady accepting side helpers to promote success.  As seen, she enjoys her time on the horse.  Annie is a twenty-two-year-old half-Arab mare who has been used in the program for fifteen years.  She has a wonderful swinging gate that settles autistic students. She is now used for our lighter students.


This adult has limited use of her left arm.  She wants to improve her trunk strength and become more weight bearing on her left side.  She is more independent when she mounts and dismounts from the off side.


We use activities as taking the rings off the poles to work on goals.  Here, this rider is getting help from his father.  This rider has a heightened sensitivity to noise and activity.  He needs quick reassurance during his lessons.  Cricket is a half Dartmoor.  She demands that the horse leader focuses on her and praises her often. Many times all of the volunteers with a rider focus only on their rider.  The horse leaderís job is to be aware of the rider, but focus on the horse.

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