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Wilson College offering equine-facilitated degree

May 29, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - While the Franklin County Therapeutic Riding Center is expanding its facility nearby, Wilson College is set to offer students a four-year degree in equine-facilitated therapeutics.

This fall the college will become just the second in the nation to offer such a degree, according to Ann O'Shallie, who heads the equestrian studies program at Wilson. The other is St. Andrew's Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C.

"They will be able to go out and be instructors, go out and teach programs and manage programs," O'Shallie said. She said there are 535 therapeutic riding centers in the United States certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.

Sixty-eight of those are in Pennsylvania, serving more than 3,000 physically and mentally handicapped riders, she said.

"The school is going forward with it because Wilson is an ideal place to have it," O'Shallie said. Wilson has had an equestrian studies center since the 1980s, with acres of stables, barns and indoor and outdoor riding facilities, she said.

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According to O'Shallie, there will be six new courses specific to the major. Those include two semesters of equine-facilitated therapy, a semester on training therapeutic horses, equine biomechanics and kinesiology and two teaching semesters.

Students will learn about the special equipment needed, how equine therapies can help people with various handicaps, and the business aspects of organizing and running a program.

As far as the biomechanics and kinesiology of horses and humans, O'Shallie said those are related to the study of movement.

"In order to understand how your tool works, you have to understand how it moves and how the person moves," she said.

Last spring the college offered a course to introduce students to the new major. O'Shallie said nine students signed up and she expects at least six more by the time classes begin this fall.

"We feel those numbers are pretty good," she said.

"We're hoping that some of them will go on to post-graduate work because there's a tremendous need in this country for research" on equine-facilitated therapeutics, O'Shallie said.

She said Wilson College could play an important role in that work.

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