The Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors, founded in 1982 for the purpose of promoting and enhancing, through the use of horseback riding, the abilities of each participant to reach their highest potential and to promote to the general public an understanding of the needs and abilities of children and adults with disabilities.
In 1972, Father Robert Wagner of the Diocese of Springfield, realizing that many of his parishioners could not get to church because of their disabilities, undertook a mission to make religious services accessible.
As his mission grew, he was able to purchase the old Shaeffer Estate on Northampton Street in Holyoke as a home for the programs he was developing. He renamed the property Jericho and formalized his programs as the Bureau of Exceptional Children and Adults (BECA). Shortly after this purchase, he came upon a girl riding her horse on the lawns who explained that the Shaeffers had given her permission to ride on their property at any time.
Father Wagner and the girl, Geraldine O’Connor, agreed that she could continue to ride if she would be kind enough to give “pony rides” to the disabled children who used the facility as a religious resource. Gerry enthusiastically agreed to the proposition and over the next months, it became apparent that the children loved the horse and looked forward to riding on Sunday after Mass. Having heard of therapeutic riding and seeing first hand how much the rides and the horse meant to the children, Father Wagner researched therapeutic riding, learned about the Kellogg Foundation’s Cheff Center in Michigan which trains instructors and program directors in this specialized form of therapy and sent Gerry there for professional training.
At the same time, Father Wagner met with the Beavers Club (a service club made up of men of French-Canadian ancestry who donate their skills and time to charitable agencies) who agreed to build a stable on the Jericho grounds. The stable was finished in 1979 and it remains in use today.
In 1980, Father Wagner determined it would be more logical if the riding program were a separate agency. He then formed a committee of parents whose children had particularly loved riding to look into the continuation of the program and authenticate the value of therapeutic riding.
With the support of the committee, the riding program continued and was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charitable agency in 1984. An indoor riding arena was built in 1982 with consulting assistance from the Smith College Equestrian Center. Upon incorporation, Geraldine O’Connor became its first executive director. Today, the Therapeutic Equestrian Center continues to reside on the grounds of Jericho as an entirely separate program.
Three years later, an office addition was added to the arena building, funded by a grant from the Adolph Coors Company, with the support of Burke Beverage Distributors. The addition includes a handicapped-accessible bathroom, a viewing room looking into the arena, a heated tack room, and the management office.
Since then, TEC has added further facilities, including a new tractor shed house, our new harrow, and a new tractor donated to TEC by Jericho.
In 2004-5, after a financial reorganization, TEC reopened with an eye to the future, adding a new run-in shed for the main outdoor arena, and beautiful new fencing around the arena and the turn-out paddock. Judy Zedonis was brought on as Executive Director. Today TEC serves an average of over 100 riders per session, with six beautiful horses and a dedicated and enthusiastic staff. The Board and staff of TEC look forward to continued growth and the ability to serve an ever larger portion of our community.