References to the physical and emotional benefits of therapeutic horseback riding date back to writings in the 1600s. However, when Liz Hartel of Denmark won the silver medal for dressage at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic games–despite having paralysis from polio–medical and equine professionals took active notice. It wasn’t long before therapeutic riding was being used for rehabilitation in England and then in North America. The first centers for therapeutic riding in North America began operation in the 1960s. Free S.P.I.R.I.T. (Special People In Riding Therapy) Riders, Inc. began equine facilitated therapeutic services to Fond du Lac and the surrounding area in 1987.
History of Free SPIRIT Riders, Inc.
Free SPIRIT (Special People In Riding Therapy) Riders Inc. was founded in 1987 by Amelia (Emmy) Butzen and Mary Narges, former Executive Director, due to a recognized need for services for Developmentally Disabled individuals that could help increase the participants’ potential while doing something enjoyable. We were soon incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Free SPIRIT Riders started providing services on a very limited basis in 1987, and the demand for our unique services grew annually and consistently. To meet the demand, in 2001 we completed construction of our own facility on 38 acres of land purchased and owned by Free SPIRIT Riders, Inc. We have increased the services we provide as well as expanding the services provided since moving into our program owned facility.
In 1998, one of our horses was named the Companion Animal of the Year in by the Wisconsin Veterinarian’s Association. Three of our Volunteers have been named PATH Region 6 Volunteer of the Year (1994, 1998 and 2002).
Free SPIRIT Riders wishes to honor our former Executive Director, Mary Narges, by further carrying out her hopes and dreams of providing therapeutic services to individuals with disabilities. Without Mary’s passion and dedication, Free SPIRIT Riders would not be able to provide therapeutic interactions with horses to the valuable members of our community.