Lakeland Center celebrates 20 years of therapeutic horse riding

Lakeland Center celebrates 20 years of therapeutic horse riding

By Lindsay Doty

Christy Menke has always believed in the healing power of horses. 

She’s the owner of Lakeland Center, a nonprofit farm (formerly known as Hope Haven Horse Farm) in Coatesville that helps children and adults with disabilities and trauma through therapeutic horseback riding.

Horse therapy helps about 100 adults and kids at Lakeland Center in Coatesville. (Photo provided by Lakeland Center)

Twenty years ago, she started the nonprofit as a young single mother who once had Olympic dreams of horse jumping but was sidelined by a car accident. She turned her grandfather’s farm into a place where she could work with her favorite animals.

Watching her show horse Lakeland form bonds with little ones on the horse show circuit gave her the idea to start the farm. 

“He would take battered children and be a gentle giant with them,” she said. 

Through the years, she has watched clients with different disabilities or trauma benefit cognitively and physically from horse therapy. 

“To see a depressed child, come out of her shell because of a horse, I can’t put a finger on what happens out there, it’s just amazing,” said Menke. “Because of the horse’s rhythm, it mimics the human walk. So, for some of our clients, their balance is improving drastically.”

Today, the farm serves about 100 clients, including adults, who participate in 30 to 60-minute sessions. The farm has about 10 therapy horses and is adding more. They provide scholarships for children to show horses in 4-H and care for their animals. The farms also recently expanded to include therapy for veterans. 

“All of our new programs are blossoming,” said Menke. “Seeing the veteran with anger management issues open up and talk to the horse or get him to calm down to give his medicines, you can’t explain that.”

As Lakeland Center gets ready to celebrate 20 years, they’ve partnered with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to research the medical benefits of horse therapy. This year, they will introduce a mobile unit technology that simulates riding. The mechanical saddle can travel with a therapist to the client, reaching out to people who man not be able to travel or who are at-risk for falls. 

“People are all very different, and the programs that help them must also have the ability to cater to the different needs,” said Menke, who is also a nurse. “I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. This is the biggest blessing we’ve ever had.”


Cheers to Lakeland 

To help fund scholarships for therapy riding, Lakeland Center will hold its annual Cheers to Lakeland beer and wine tasting fundraiser that includes food trucks and a silent auction.

6-10 p.m. Feb. 1

Hendricks Co 4-H Fairgrounds & Conference Complex

1900 E. Main St., Danville

Cost: $20 online or $25 at the door.