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Therapeutic Riding of Tucson: Healing though the human-horse connection

"Horses are an excellent mirror of your own emotions and your own mindset"
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Posted at 11:00 AM, Jul 05, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Each month we focus on a Southern Arizona nonprofit with our "Giving Project—Doing Well by Doing Good."

This July, KGUN 9 is shining the spotlight on TROT: Therapeutic Riding of Tucson.

For nearly 50 years, TROT has been helping enrich the lives of people with special needs by partnering them with horses.

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"It's a peaceful respite for those who need that."

Jeff Copfer is the Executive Director of TROT. He's describing the 18-acre horse property off Tanque Verde on Tucson's northeast side.
The facility has nearly 20 horses and several certified instructors.

TROT caters its programs to anyone four-years-old and up. That includes a weekly program called 'Heroes on Horses,' offered free of charge to veterans, first responders and their families.
Another unique programs is called Equine-Assisted Counseling.


"Consider traditional counseling in an office, but here you're outside," says Copfer. "Because horses are an excellent mirror of your own emotions and your own mindset, they call you on your emotions very quickly. If you come in too hot with a horse, the horse will let you know. So it's just a very calming experience."

Started in 1974, Therapeutic Riding of Tucson has been an innovator.

"We're one of the first facilities in the United States to innovate the use of horses as a treatment modality."

Margaux DeConcini is TROT's development director. She oversees the half dozen programs including those for kids with special needs.

"For an individual with Autism who is always searching for external stimulation, we'll partner them with a horse that has shorter, quicker, faster steps" DeConcini tells me.

"Those quicker, faster steps provide deeper input and stimulation through the horse into the individual's body who's on top of the horse, helping the child be able to focus on the task at hand. And you can see so much self esteem and confidence building," she says.

From TROT: "Many of our participants have been faced with barriers too big to cross. But the relationship built between a participant and their equine companion is a bridge easily crossed.

We all need a friend who never gives up on us, who helps us realize our potential, and who gives us the confidence to turn disabilities into abilities."

TROT also relies on volunteers like Jack Hess to take care of the horses. He says working at TROT is very rewarding, especially with young riders with special needs.

"You can see the improvement, and it's like at the end of the day, you know that hour has been the best hour for the week," Hess says.

RELATED: Children living with disabilities learn horsemanship at TROT summer camp

We invite you to make a donation to TROT by using our texting feature.

100% of the money raised will go directly to the organization. You can also donate directly through our website.

Our partners in the giving project, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, will again match the first $500 in this July.

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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