Equine Assisted Programs

A person with a physical, cognitive or emotional special need can find interactions with horses to be highly rewarding. For example, the rhythmic motion of a horse can help riders with physical needs show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength. Research shows that a large group of people with various physical issues and disabilities across all ages can benefit greatly, both physically and emotionally, from equine assisted activities. The relationship formed between human and equine can also lead to increased self confidence and self esteem for those individuals with emotional and cognitive challenges.

Program Enrollment

Interested participants should download our Participant Handbook. This document will answer many questions about available programs and the registration process. Once this has been submitted, Great Oak staff will reach you to schedule a screening.

Scholarship Information

Great Oak strives to make our services available to all participants whose application for registration is accepted but cannot afford full tuition. Great Oak fulfills this mission through the generosity of our supporters.

Our Programs

Great Oak is a proud Member Center of PATH International and all of Great Oak’s Instructors are Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors with PATH International.

Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs is a 501c3 Nonprofit and all donations are tax-deductible.

Therapeutic Riding is an equestrian skill-based activity for children and adults with disabilities. The focus of the lessons is skill development and progression while improving the rider’s physical, cognitive, emotional and/or social skills. Lessons are taught by a PATH International Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors, and are assisted by volunteers.  Lesson plans are based on individual goals established by riders and their families and are offered in group, semi-private or private sessions. 

To enroll in lessons, please view our Participant Handbook. 

Great Oak Assisted Life Skills (GOALS) is a half day program that will meet three times per week. During our time working within the community we received consistent feedback that the young adults we serve needed a place to have meaningful experiences to obtain life and employment skills. With input from our participants and their families GOALS was created.

Great Oak is home to the Georgia and South Carolina Area-15 Equestrian team. 2018 was our inaugural season and the first time South Carolina hosted a state competition in over 7 years. Our team consists of 8 athletes, 3 certified Special Olympics Coaches and 12 Special Olympic Certified Volunteers.

Great Oak’s Silver Saddles are a group of mature women who seek to increase their balance, coordination, flexibility and strength while in the saddle. This program is taught by a PATH International Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and is held throughout a 6 week program. Groups are limited to three riders and various times are available.

Community Based Instruction is a service that Great Oak is pleased to offer the students of Aiken County. In the 2017-2018 school year Great Oak hosted 24 students a week from three different high schools. The students work along side staff and volunteers to practice job skills that will increase their likelihood to obtain employment after graduation. Our students care for our GO Ponies, maintain our beautiful farm, and learn life skills while having fun! In the 2018-2019 school year all Elementary and Middle school Special Education students came to Great Oak and enjoyed a day on the farm. Students learned about taking care of horses, participated in a scavenger hunt on our sensory trail and engaged in a leading activity with one of our GO Ponies. The field trips are generously sponsored by Meybohm and The Sullivan Turner Team.

Groundwork Activity lessons are designed to focus on equestrian skills, such as horse care, grooming, leading, and lunging. Groundwork does not involve riding but seeks to further the student’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social development while interacting with our GO Ponies from the ground. Students who participate in our groundwork programs can expect increased confidence and to develop a special bond with our GO Ponies.

Camps are a fun experience for all children and our campers leave each day experiencing, horsemanship activities, riding lessons, games, crafts and more! Due to COVID-19, Summer Camp activities have been shuffled to accommodate social distancing measures.

Great Oak’s Fun Fillies is an after school activity for young girls to develop communication strategies, problem solving skills, horsemanship, and teamwork. This equine-facilitated learning group is designed for 8-12 year old girls and occurs during a 10 week program. Most of the personal growth and development occurs on the ground while working with the horse, but the last two weeks the girls can expect to ride!