Topics & Perspectives

Therapeutic Activities with Horses, Humans, & Hope at Equest

Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.  ~Erma Bombeck

Equest is 501(c)(3) an organization providing life-changing therapeutic activities with horses to North Texas children and adults with disabilities. I began my journey with Equest in 2014. As a novice horsewoman who grew up with friends and a family member with disabilities, the Equest mission was compelling to me.

I was invited to join the board of directors in 2016. At each meeting, I learned more about the benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies for people with disabilities. By early 2017, I began volunteering at the Texas Horse Park facility in the Great Trinity Forest. I will continue to do so for many more years!

I volunteer in various programs, including therapeutic horsemanship, physical and occupational therapy, carriage driving, and outreach and literacy programs.

Joy Through Therapeutic Activities with Horses

Special Needs Boy Enjoying Therapeutic Activities with Horses

The joy the client experiences with the horses is infectious. I love to see their smiles when riding the horses or carriage-driving, grooming, and thanking the horses by gently petting them. I have seen both shy and non-communicative students open up and interact more with their instructors, therapists, and volunteers. The reactions of the clients’ parents are gratifying to me. Their child’s joy becomes the parents’ joy. Every parent appreciates the instructors and volunteers for all they do to for their child.

The Equest clients cannot play traditional competitive sports. Equest offers them that chance through these therapeutic activities with horses, and it is meaningful to me to be a part of this experience with them. I also help when the mini horses mingle with children at schools and Dallas Public Library visits during Equest’s literacy programs. I love to see the children’s fascination and excitement when they meet the mini-horses. For many children, their Equest mini-horse experience is the first time they have ever interacted with a horse.

Building Relationships from Volunteering at Equest

Building Relationships from Volunteering at Equest

I care for and admire all my clients that I have the honor and pleasure to work alongside.

One specific individual is challenged with a developmental/behavioral disorder. I have been his volunteer for more than four years and have watched his riding skills progress. I have also seen improvements in his focus, attention, and verbal communication. Early on, he sometimes could not finish the entire class due to what appeared to be stress. Now, he always completes his classes. He even competed in a horse show this past May! He is very kind and always thanks the instructor, the horse, and me at the end of his lessons.

I missed the first four weeks of the spring session this year due to illness. My first day back and the first lesson of the day was with this client. I was so happy to be back, and I told him at the end of the class he made my day. He very sweetly said back to me, “Pia, you made my day.” Who can ask for more positive feedback than that!

The other client I work with uses a wheelchair. We assist him with mounting the horse, and in addition to the volunteer leading the horse, he has two side walkers support him in-saddle. He has ridden for many years and is very independent. He makes transportation arrangements with DART paratransit to attend his classes at Equest and to go on outings with his friends. He regularly volunteers at a local children’s hospital. He is a cheerful guy with a great sense of humor who inspires all of us!

Equest Goes Above & Beyond

The Equest staff are a wonderful group of people. They are kind, caring, appreciative of volunteers, and dedicated to the mission of supplying therapeutic activities with horses to whoever needs them. As a program volunteer, the most involvement is with the instructors. They make all the volunteers feel welcome, comfortable, valued, and safe. It is the same for the experienced volunteers who train us and assist during classes.

Volunteering at Equest also provides me with a nature fix. The location in the Great Trinity Forest is lovely, with wonderful views of trees and opportunities to walk through the woods on client trail rides.

Helping others makes volunteering so special, and, for me, Equest and the work they do with therapeutic activities with horses and the lives they touch is the best place for me to serve.

Are you looking for someplace to give of yourself? Take my advice, and give Equest a call; you may find that it is just what you are looking for to enrich your life.


Pia Ackerman

Pia Ackerman is a Certified Public Accountant holding licenses in Texas and California. She is now a tax consultant. Pia served on the Equest board of directors from 2016 through 2021 and held the post of Treasurer from 2016 through 2018. Pia has been a program volunteer for Equest since 2017. From 2011 through 2018, Pia also served on the board of directors of the Housing Crisis Center. Learn more about Equest here.

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