Horse Empowered Learning Programs, Inc.

About H.E.L.P.

As an Eagle Scout, I swore an oath to remain active in helping others in my community. I also think that horses are beautiful animals, so volunteering at H.E.L.P. is a wonderful way to keep the promise I made and spend time with horses every week.
— Jeffrey, Volunteer

Horse Empowered Learning Programs, Inc. (H.E.L.P.) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Since 1984, H.E.L.P. has served clients with physical and mental disabilities in the greater Austin area, offering Therapeutic Riding, Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL), and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP). 

Services are provided on our 20+ acre facility including our arena, barn, and 5 acre sensory wilderness trail. We serve individuals with physical or mental challenges who would benefit from a relationship with a horse, whether it's riding, groundwork, bonding, or a combination of experiences. We are privileged to work with an exceptional herd of equine partners, all chosen for our programs because of their gentle and friendly demeanor. All services are provided by accredited and credentialed PATH International instructors and certified mental health professionals.



"We love H.E.L.P.! Maddy has been riding at H.E.L.P. for 8 years. She has very low tone and doesn't sit up on her own, except when she rides her horse! As she got taller, it was harder to sit up, and for a few years she lay on her horse. She started riding Rooster, and two years ago she started sitting up again. We were thrilled. Thanks to her instructor, Stephanie, and volunteers and amazing horses, we've watched her improve. There is no substitute for therapeutic riding. H.E.L.P. is a strong support system and we consider them family."

— Marilyn, Parent


Our Mission

Our mission is to help those with physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges grow in strength and independence through personalized activities in partnership with the horse.

Our History

Peggy Haecker founded H.E.L.P. (Handicapped Equestrian Learning Program) in 1984 as a pilot program, hoping to serve those with physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges in her community through therapeutic horse riding. Unfortunately, Peggy was diagnosed with Lupus and stepped away from instructing in 1991. To keep the organization going, her friend, Linda Atkinson, stepped up to lead, ensuring riders who relied on H.E.L.P.’s services could continue receiving therapeutic riding lessons.

During that time, H.E.L.P. had 5 or 6 horses, the arena was near the major road in front of the organization’s property, and all instructors were teaching on a volunteer basis. In 1990, H.E.L.P. only had three certified volunteer instructors.

However, H.E.L.P. continued to grow in outreach and recognition. Soon, H.E.L.P. would achieve PATH International certification (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International), an important certification for those in the therapeutic horsemanship field.

In 2014, H.E.L.P. hired the current Executive Director, Stephanie Powell, who has brought a new level of energy and focus to the organization. With the help and dedication of long-time and new board members, instructors, and volunteers, H.E.L.P. has continued to grow its capabilities and services to serve more and more members of the community with physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges within the community and across the greater Austin region.