PALS Muckboot Blog

A Horse of a Different Color

On March 31st, a group of rider parents, grandparents and PALS Board members had the opportunity to hear a presentation from Adria Nassim called “A Horse of a Different Color”.  This might sound like an odd title for a presentation given at a therapeutic riding center like PALS, but when you understand more about Adria, it makes complete sense.  Adria is a 29 year old young woman who lives in Bloomington with her autism/mobility service dog, Lucy, a well behaved and trained yellow Lab.  Adria  views herself as a “Horse of a Different Color” who has overcome many obstacles to live her productive and largely independent life today while coping with disabilities.   As a 2010 graduate of Brescia University in Owensboro, KY, with a B.A. in English and Spanish, she is now a columnist (and blogger) for the Herald Times offering her unique perspective on living life as a young adult with disabilities.  

In her presentation, Adria gave the audience a special look into her life in Bloomington and before. Her parents have made sure that she has had the benefit of every type of counseling and therapy available to treat those diagnosed with mild to moderate autism spectrum disorders including her enrolling in the College Internship Program on the Bloomington Campus.  This program offers postsecondary transitional support services for young adults ages 18-26 with autism, learning disabilities, ADD and ADHD.  With this support, Adria is now actively advocating for greater understanding of those living with disabilities and her weekly column continues to educate and raise awareness.

Before having Lucy in her life, Adria recalls a time when she became lost in her own neighborhood and needed assistance to find her way home.  With Lucy, this is no longer a problem.  In fact, Lucy has helped Adria experience many normal activities like shopping, gathering with friends and taking walks that were impossible without her service companion.  Adria and Lucy are a tight and an incredible team.

When asked by a parent why it was difficult for individuals diagnosed with autism to make eye contact, she was happy to explain that for those with autism it actually feels “painful”……too many stimuli to handle at one time.  Adria has had considerable training in social skills and can maintain eye contact and shake hands very comfortably.

Dr. Elda Simpson, a local Pediatrician now charged with diagnosing children with suspected autism spectrum disorder, said this about the presentation:

               Adria’s presentation was delightful and quite capable. Sociability and public speaking do not come naturally to people with autism spectrum disorder.  Her capability speaks to the success of her early and intensive therapies.  She has admirable self-awareness about her disabilities.  She acknowledges the important role that therapies have played in giving her the skills to become an independent and contributing member of the adult world.  Her relationship to her service dog, Lucy, is heart-warming and is also a great example of how the human/animal connection can be therapeutic.  It was very fitting to have her speak about this at PALS.”

PALS’ Board Vice-Chair, Leigh Richey

Client Feature: Zoe W!

Zoe is a bright and loyal rider who has been taking lessons at PALS for six years. She has ridden multiple PALS horses and currently rides Watson, who we like because he stands so calmly and has smooth transitions. Zoe is currently working on steering Watson with one hand at a time, sitting up tall, leaning forward to keep her balance during transitions, and becoming more independent such as progressing to an ankle hold. Last quarter she accomplished this new step in independence by keeping an ankle hold for over half the session!


Zoe has a great memory and learns quickly about horsemanship. She knows many horse parts and all the emergency procedures. She loves to chat and joke with her team but also concentrates on working hard. In the past year, Zoe has improved in her core strength while riding, her body awareness of where her balance is, and her ability to separate and coordinate the different riding aids. In fact, she likes her riding sessions so much that she gave an oral report on PALS for school! Zoe is also very humble and does not like a lot of attention for her riding accomplishments, but we want to honor her as a great example of a PALS rider in her longevity and improvement!                  

- Cindy, PALS Instructor

Meet PALS’ Youngest Supporter, Madilyn Fisher!

Madilyn (pictured far left) is in the fifth grade at University Elementary school. When her class was asked to participate in a project that made the world a better place, Madilyn right away chose to reach out to PALS. She loves horses and believes that PALS does great work. Over the last few months, Madilyn has been collecting items for us from our wishlist. So far she’s collected a halter, tail comb, saddle pad, brush, curry comb, and joint medicine! But there’s no stopping her there. Now, Madilyn is working on an article for her school’s newsletter so more kids can learn about our programs and how they can get involved. We can’t thank Madilyn enough for the time she has put in to help PALS! Luckily, we had the chance to ask her a few questions…


1. How did you come up with the idea to create a QR code and have people purchase items off our wishlist?
Well, I wanted to help somehow. I couldn’t decide, and then Fern sent me PALS’s wishlist. I consulted my mom about and she gave me some ideas. I liked the first idea the best. It was having people type in the web address to the item. I changed the idea to a QR code. I figured that a QR code would be more convenient than having to type in a long web address. So, then I got horse paper, cut it out into circles, put the QR code on, and then typed the directions on the back. This idea was effective!

2. What is the coolest thing you learned through this process?
Everything about it was cool. I had fun doing it all, and it was a great learning experience. One of the things that I learned is that it takes a lot of people and a lot of things to run a non-profit. I found it fascinating that PALS has over 100 volunteers. I also found it amazing and very heartwarming that PALS only charges 27% of the real cost that it takes to put on a whole lesson. 

3. Do you have ideas on what you will do next?
As far as what I am doing next, I don’t know. Our project at school is over, so I will have to find time to work on it. I definitely want to keep helping PALS though, I know that much! When I get a little bit older, I would love to volunteer my time at PALS. Other than that, I will have to figure out a way to keep this all going.

4. What do you want to do when you’re older?
Honestly, I have no idea. I do know that I want to do something with horses. That may be a vet, or a trainer, or a riding instructor. I love horses, so I will be doing something with them, I just really don’t know what. I always remind myself though, that I have time to figure it out. 

Below is the finished article that Madilyn wrote for her school’s newsletter:

There is a wonderful place on West Elwren road.  It is a non-profit organization that helps kids with disabilities do something fun: ride horses! Fern Goodman, the executive director of PALS, oversees a therapeutic program with horses.

I asked Fern some questions about her experiences with PALS. One of the questions I asked her was, “What moment do you think will become your most memorable?” Fern answered, “I had a very memorable moment with a client…I remember an adult client who was very afraid to get on the horses… it took us over 15 minutes to get her to sit on the horse. Once she got on, she was so proud of herself, and she would pull on the reins and the horse would turn or stop just as she asked them to do. The client started yelling at me ‘she listens to me, she listened to me’ For this adult it was probably the first time in her entire life that she wasn’t questioned about the decisions she made and when she was truly in power.”

PALS only asks their clients pay 27% of the full cost of one lesson. As a result, PALS relies on the community to cover the remaining expenses. One way we can help is by donating money to PALS. Another way of helping is by going to their website,

Here you can view PALS’s wish list, and choose items to donate. I know that PALS will appreciate everything donated!


PALS Announces 2016 Date for Annual Fundraiser

Bloomington, IN— The staff and board members of People & Animal Learning Services, Inc. (PALS) are excited to invite the community to their fundraiser, the 12th Annual PALS Mane Event, on Friday, April 29th, 2016 at 6:00 pm (doors open 5:30) in Indiana University’s Alumni Hall. The highly anticipated Derby-themed evening will begin with a beer & wine tasting courtesy of local vendors.  The tasting will be accompanied by live gypsy jazz from Bloomington’s own Double Digits and will feature a fabulous, mobile-powered silent auction. A three-course dinner and live auction presentation hosted by the one and only Jimmie Dean Coffey, founder of Coffey Reality & Auction, will follow. Special guest emcee and local radio personality Pam Thrash will accompany Jimmie Dean on stage as guests bid the night away!

All proceeds from the event support PALS therapeutic equine programs. In 2015 alone, the organization reached over 100 individuals with disabilities, veterans, and at-risk youth. PALS programs are important to many families in Bloomington, especially for parents who have children with disabilities. As one parent recounts, “My daughter is out of her wheelchair and WALKING because of the muscle strength she gained by riding the horses at PALS!” The Mane Event provides PALS with essential funding to offer programs for all, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Early Bird tickets are $60 per person for the first 75 tickets sold, full price is $65. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, January 29th. Guests must be 21+ years with a valid ID to attend, and Derby attire is highly encouraged. For additional event information, please contact PALS at:, (812) 336-2798, ext. 18 or visit

Staff and volunteers of PALS are currently seeking donated items, packages, and experiences for the event’s live and silent auctions. If you would like to donate an auction item, please contact Abi Yates at

About PALS

Since its inception in 2000, PALS has been dedicated to providing therapeutic equine programs to individuals with disabilities, veterans and at-risk youth. PALS is a therapeutic outlet for individuals facing challenges that is unlike anything else in the South Central Indiana community. Annually, the organization reaches hundreds of individuals, ages three and up living in Monroe County and 10 other surrounding counties. By using the horse therapeutic tool, programs are not only effective, but fun! PALS is Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) Premiere-Accredited Center, United Way Member Agency, and Indiana Horse Council Member.

Media Contact:

Abi Yates, Outreach Coordinator

People & Animal Learning Services (PALS)


Phone: 812.336.2798 ext. 15


PALS First Therapy Horse

People & Animal Learning Services (PALS) has been around for almost 16 years! In those 16 years the staff at PALS has grown, the organization purchased their own facility, and more and more great programs are now able to be offered. Proud is an understatement for how the staff, Board, volunteers and community should feel. But do you ever wonder what it was like when PALS first started? Before PALS had 12 horses, they only had one to call their own!

PALS’ Outreach Coordinator Abi Yates sat down with Barb Bonchek, a longtime volunteer of PALS and also the mother of the Executive Director, Fern Goodman, to talk about PALS’ first-ever horse, Navaar.

Navaar was about 14 years old when Barb brought him home.  She traded a 17 hand (That’s huge!) horse named Mardi Gras to a 16 year old girl for Navaar, a grey Arabian gelding.  “He had done everything from roping, to barreling, to jumping, to racing, but it was time for him to settle down and retire,” said Barb as she talked about the first time she brought Navaar home. “He had all the qualities of a therapeutic horse. He was medium-sized. Such a sweet horse. Everyone who met Navaar loved him.” Navaar’s history gets even more interesting as he also happened to be related to a movie star!  He was the son of the chestnut Arabian stallion who raced the Black Stallion in the film, “The Black Stallion Returns.”

In 2000, shortly after Barb brought Navaar home, her daughter Fern founded PALS in Bloomington. They began by using loaned space at Stone Creek Ranch. Barb would bring Navaar and her Shetland Pony, Moon Shadow, to the barn for sessions twice a week. “He was safe and he loved children,” Barb recalls the times she would see Navaar getting prepped for his sessions.

After Stone Creek, PALS began renting space at Ellington Stables. Navaar was still living on Barb’s farm. One night, he had an accident. Barb found Navaar in critical condition and damages to his face. They didn’t know if he would make it. The veterinarian came and fixed him up and afterward Navaar’s side of face was paralyzed and he couldn’t blink on his own. “We had to give him eye drops multiple times a day.” It was like Navaar had a disability of his own. “Somehow, overtime, he taught himself to blink.” After this miraculous recovery, Barb donated Navaar to PALS, making him the first-ever PALS owned therapy horse.

Navaar continued in sessions for years after this until finally retiring from PALS in 2007. In 2005, Navaar received the “Indiana Therapy Horse of the Year” Award.  In addition to being used in therapeutic sessions, Navaar was used in horse shows and on trails and was the only horse in the barn trusted for a rider’s first canter!  He competed at the regional Equestrian Special Olympics bringing home the gold and silver medals for his riders. At one point, Navaar even had a pen pal who was a little girl from Europe.

“When you think about PALS and how it first started, do you think of Navaar?” Abi asked Barb. She answered immediately “Oh yes. He was the star of the program. Navaar was sort of like a mascot for PALS.” Navaar may not be with PALS anymore, but his story will stick with everyone. He is remembered as a loving and kind horse that could be trusted with all people. In honor of Navaar, his 2005 Therapy Horse award and a lock of his mane are now hanging in the PALS community room for all to see.

Client Feature: Bobby & Melissa

Team Bobby and Melissa have been riding with PALS for several years, Melissa started in 2005 and Bobby in 2008! They come in Mondays always arriving with a smile, accompanied by their trusted friend and caregiver Georgia and their buddy Jessie.  

 Bobby & Melissa have benefitted so much from their partnership with our horses. They both have worked very hard during sessions to learn riding skills and build relationships with their horses. Currently, Bobby’s horse is Spirit, a sweet painted gelding who takes good care of Bobby when he rides independently. Melissa’s horse is Lola.  She is a perky mare who has been a PALS tried & true mount for seven years.  Lola & Melissa make perfect partners as Melissa steers through an obstacle course. Over the past decade, Bobby and Melissa’s skills and confidence in themselves have grown by leaps & bounds!

Bobby and Melissa also give back to PALS. They are consistently in instructor training sessions and are favorites among our Instructors in Training (IT’s).  I couldn’t be more proud of Bobby and Melissa and their accomplishments here. The coolest thing about these individuals is that they thank their horse with words, a pat and even sometimes a kiss at the end of each session.  Hats off to Bobby & Spirit and Melissa & Lola!

-         Holly Foster, Bobby and Melissa’s Instructor


Join us as we share all that we have to be grateful for!

Meet our newest staff member, Rachael.

Rachael is a graduate of Harrison College with an Associates in Veterinary Technology. She’s been working with horses for years and after working in a small animal practice for a few years decided to make working with horses into a career. She hopes to go back to school for her next degree. Rachael does not own any horses right now but her American Bulldog, Kora, keeps her busy. Her other hobbies include rock climbing, cliff diving, and anything outdoors.


We are Extremely Thankful for the Wonderful Clients that Ride Each Week at PALS!

Meet Lexy, she is 16 years old and has been with PALS since she was 5. She was born premature, weighing only one pound and nine ounces. Although her birth lead to some challenges, Lexy doesn’t let anything hold her back. She is passionate about music, riding horses, and loving life. Read more…


We are Thankful for the PALS Facility!

This is where it all happens! For those of you who don’t know, we purchased our very own facility in March of 2013 on Elwren Road. Before this pivotal moment, PALS rented space. Now, with a permanent home, we are grateful to have all the luxuries of our own place…acres upon acres of pasture, warm offices in the winter, plenty of stalls…the list goes on! Thank you to all who donated their resources to help renovate this amazing space.

Meet the PALS Horses! 

We currently have 11 awesome therapy horses who have all been graciously donated. We are thankful for their kind, caring, gentle spirits. Read more about our horses…


We are so Lucky to Have Such Wonderful and Dedicated Volunteers! Check out this video featuring our awesome volunteers!

Meet our November Volunteer of the Month, Mary!


When did you start volunteering with PALS?
I started volunteering in spring 2012, at the old location. It has been fun to see PALS programming expand at the new location!

What is your favorite part about volunteering with PALS?
I wanted another way to become involved with the Bloomington community, and PALS has physical activity, education, personal development and Fun!

Please share a favorite moment you’ve had at PALS.
Some of my favorite PALS moments are not at the barn, but take place in the Bloomington community. I might be shopping or walking down the street and see a student from PALS. When I stop to say “Hello” they are pleased to be recognized and get excited looking forward to their next session.

Who is your favorite horse and why?
My favorite horse is Bell, because she was in the first sessions I participated in. She sets a good tone!

Anything else you would like to share?
I am still learning new things about horses and meeting new friends every session!


We are Thankful for our Donors!

Tom and Dana have been supporting PALS for years. We are grateful for their support and invite you to learn about their unique experience with PALS: 

“I remember the first time we went to watch a PALS lesson. It was the most amazing transformation I’ve ever seen. First, there were two to three volunteers and staff working together to mount the girl onto the horse. They used the lift and so forth. But once she was on that horse, watching her animation and vocalization was a turning point. It was transformative. With my background in speech therapy, I especially appreciated this transformation. Tom and I have been attached to PALS ever since this moment.” Read more…


We have many things to be thankful for and it wouldn’t be possible without all of the dedicated people (and animals) involved in our mission. From PALS Staff and Board to you, we hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!

100+ Women Who Care Support PALS

Originally a group of only 100 Women, 100+ Women Who Care now consists of over around 200 women from Monroe County who desire to contribute to their community through donations to local nonprofit organizations. The group, which meets quarterly, is presented with 3 different nonprofit funding opportunities by members speaking on behalf of the organization in need. From these presentations, the group then votes on which organization they wish the $100 each member donates at the meeting will support.

At the group’s November 2015 meeting, PALS was selected as the recipient of the group’s support following a presentation by long time PALS volunteer Melissa Carter-Goodrum. Funds donated will support the PALS Capital Campaign, and therapeutic equine programs for at-risk youth, veterans, and children and adults with disabilities from south central Indiana.

Staff Insights: Lindsay Nash

From the Desk of Lindsay Nash, PALS Development Associate

I love being a part of PALS because…I am truly touched by the mission. Therapy can be difficult and frustrating for many, especially children who have gone through more in a few years than most adults experience in a lifetime. Its humbling to be a part of an organization like PALS and I’m grateful to be working towards a noble cause.

One of my favorite PALS moments is… sitting down after the 2014 Mane Event (not just because my feet hurt). It was a really cool moment to reflect on how months of hard work can turn into something as fun and rewarding as the Mane Event.

Something most people don’t know about me...Most people don’t know that I have traveled to four continents.

Something I’d like you to know about PALS that you may not….I would like people to know how exciting this time is for the organization. Considering PALS’ history of renting spaces, having our own facility has resulted in so many opportunities for growth. Its neat to be a part of it now!

Basketball on Horseback? Who knew!?

By Cindy Linsenbardt, PALS Instructor

At PALS we teach clients how to ride their horses - how to halt, walk, turn, trot, back up, and so on. We also use activities and games to practice these skills. Activities help keep the riders’ interest, make it fun, and let us incorporate additional life goals such as working on stretching or social skills. Here are some types of games we’ve played at PALS in the past year!

Collecting games

We place beanie babies or plastic toys around the arena. Sometimes we hide them pretty well. The client collects the items and brings them back to a designated area. They practice walk on, halt and steering to get their horse close to the toys, use their social skills to ask for help reaching them, and practice critical thinking when looking for the toys.

Passing games

We put rings or hula hoops on T poles, which the riders pass from one side to the other. They work on walk on, steering and halting their horse to get close to the poles. Then they work on fine motor skills, coordination, using both hands, and crossing their arms over midline to pass the objects.

Matching games

There are many ways to play matching games! Spread them around the arena floor and find the matching partners, or put them on barrels and ride to each one making pairs. Riders practice halting, walking and steering their horses. We sometimes add obstacles between destinations to ride through. They work on memory, critical thinking, and social skills when looking for, reaching, and matching the cards.

Puzzles Riders

love the puzzles. Spread the pieces around the arena, find them, then put it together! Sometimes obstacles are added to avoid as you’re looking. Riders practice halting, walking and steering while also looking for the pieces. Then they work on critical thinking and fine motor skills to put the pieces together.

Stretching games

We love to incorporate games that ask clients to stretch. Often this incorporates learning the grooming tools and using them to groom your horse - stretching way up the neck, or behind you!

Tossing games

PALS has lots of tossing games, from basketball to calf roping. Riders love to toss the soft ball into the basketball hoop, each time from a littler further away. They also love to toss the hula hoop on the stray cattle (laminated cow heads) to round them up then put them back in their pen!

Birthday games

Sometimes on a birthday we get the chance to celebrate! We have a blow up cake for the ring toss game. Last Monday it was one of our instructor AND client’s birthdays, so we had the riders weave cones, halt at the mailbox to get a ring, then bring the ring to the cake and place it on. They worked on keeping their balance through turns, looks up to help control their horse, and stretching to put the rings on the cake.

Seasonal games

Lastly, we sometimes play seasonal games. In the fall we collect matching leaves with different skills to practice written on their backs. In the winter we deliver candy canes.

The activities and games you can incorporate into lessons are endless. When choosing games we always first consider safety and how it helps the rider achieve their goals. The next time you are at PALS, try to figure out why we chose the activity we did!

Dr. Andy Hipskind Dancing for PALS Riders!

PALS is proud to be one of the six local, Bloomington charities competing in this year’s Dancing with the Celebrities event! Similar to the national television hit, Dancing with the Stars, the event is a fun & friendly dance competition featuring notable Bloomington personalities. Dr. Andy Hipskind of Indiana University Athletics will be dancing on behalf of PALS on Saturday, August 8th at 8:00 pm  at the Buskirk Chumley Theater.

Get to know more about Andy, and his favorite dance moves, just a little better below!

What’s your background with dancing?

“Party dancer” i.e. wedding receptions, nights out etc. I did dance to Grease as a little kid too!
What song always makes you want to dance?
Billie Jean!

What’s your go-to dance move?
 It’s evolved. Usually something hip-hopish…I used to have some break dancing moves but I’m too old for that now!

How do you feel about representing PALS as a dancer? 
I’m excited to support their mission by participating in a fun, lively community event!

What’s something that everyone should know about you in relation to PALS?
I’m not from a “horse family” per se, but my daughter has had a love of horses from and early age and my dad speaks of his exposure to horses when he was younger. So exploring PALS service through friends involved with the organization AND having close friends with special need children participate in equine therapy has led me to this endeavor.

What are you most excited for at the 2015 Dancing with Celebrities event? 
A new experience of performing on stage will be nerve wracking and exciting!  All for great causes though!

What has been your favorite part about participating in Dancing with the Celebrities? 
A lot of new experiences and meeting new people

What have you learned from being a dancer in this competition?
Dancing is a skill, a craft and an art!  It takes practice!!  Thanks to Arthur Murray Dance Studio for their time and commitment to the volunteer celebrity dancers!  And thanks to our individual instructors too!!

PALS Staff Insights

From the Desk of Lindsay Yohn, PALS Barn Manager

I love being a part of PALS because…
of the atmosphere! I love being around the horses and everyone who loves them. The barn is always buzzing with happy faces and it’s great!

One of my favorite PALS moments is…
Seeing new riders meet the horses for the first time. It’s amazing seeing that bond between horse and rider start to develop.

Something most people don’t know about me…
I have 3 horses and one of them has lived in Maryland, Massachusetts and Indiana with me!

Something I’d like you to know about PALS that you may not...
We LOVE our volunteers! There are so many little things that go into keeping the barn in working order, the horses happy and healthy, and the riders safe. We couldn’t do any of it without our amazing volunteers.

What to expect at The Mane Event!

By Kaitlyn Smith, 2014 Mane Event Guest

The PALS Mane Event is an exciting experience for all guests. Not only do attendees enjoy an evening of laughter and glamour, but also they help to raise funds for an amazing program serving adults and and children with disabilities and the horses who make this program possible.

2015 Mane Event guests should expect:

1. Delicious Food and Spirited Drinks:  If you enjoy delectable dining, drinks, and desserts you are in for a mouthwatering experience.

2. HATS, HATS, HATS: Ladies, you know that amazing head accessory you have been looking for an excuse to wear? Here’s your opportunity! As for the gentleman, it’s recommended to expand the personal bubble space by an additional foot to accommodate the feathers and flowers and ribbons (O MY!)

3. The infamous auction: Going once…Going twice…SOLD! Guests have the opportunity to bid on unique items, artwork, trips, and experiences in the silent and live auctions. Whether you prefer the subtle and tactical approach of the silent auction or the thrill and attention of the live auction, the Mane Event offers an exciting experience for all bidders.

4. Raising awareness and funds: This evening is filled with laughter, smiles, and excitement with the goal of bringing all guests together to celebrate the accomplishments and experiences of PALS’ riders. The support gained from the Mane Event ensures that PALS’ programs can continue to serve individuals with disabilities and increase their quality of life and leisure awareness through therapeutic riding. Guests will enjoy their evening of splendor knowing they are “making strides and changing lives.”

Purchase tickets for the 2015 Mane Event Here!

It's easy to get overwhelmed at first...Tips for New Volunteers

By Kotei Aoki, PALS Stable Manager

This May marks my one-year anniversary at PALS. On this PALS Muck Boot Blog, I was asked to give tips geared toward the new volunteers. Hopefully the current volunteers will also find them relatable.

HEY new friend, welcome to PALS! I play many roles at PALS: Stable Manager (SM), Horse Leader (HL), Sidewalker (SW), and other “auxiliary” roles. So let’s just say I’m a task master. I will help kickstart your first quarter at PALS!

First and foremost, there is never a shortage of tasks at the barn. Here is a conversation with my PALS pal to illustrate what I mean:

Me: Oooo yeah equine life

Her: Never a dull moment!

Her: But seriously, when is there ever not something to do?

Me: When horses don’t poop

Her: Exactly

Horses don’t stop pooping.

We love the volunteers who are hardworking. We love them even more if they are proactive, especially at routine tasks like mucking and getting the tack out. It is remarkable how likely it is to find fresh brown deposits after a round of mucking and you just returned from dumping a wheelbarrow full of damp goods. We ask that you muck out as little of the sawdust as you can. Kara is like Ms. Hibachi, if you ever get a glimpse of her masterful pitchfork-woman-ship.

Some SMs are better at delegating than others? If I call “Dispatch!” I’m entrusting you with the tasks. It’s helpful if you ask us what else needs done. At least, we’ll refer you to the daily to-do list. So please have at it! Having said that, I will occasionally tell you, “have a seat, relax, enjoy the peace while you can.” It’s okay!

During your sidewalking duty, you will soon realize that the instructor is talking (!?). Mind blown!? While it’s mighty helpful when you know the obstacle course, it is also important that you pay attention to skills the riders are learning, like steering. Some riders will need a tactile guidance, like a tap on a steering hand. We want our riders to be independent, but some of them need more help. If you are assigned to lead a horse, oh mercy! Hope you were graceful at dodgeball! “Technically” they aren’t supposed to nip you. Bonus: if you decide to take riding lessons, apply what you learn during sidewalking. I did!

Most importantly, though, I encourage you to be curious. I don’t hesitate to ask my silly questions. In the evening, silly questions are lifeline for instructors. They need good laugh sometimes. Your questions always win silliness contest. Give it a try! I crack some jokes, and do some stunts, so I get enough dosage of laughter at every shift. Lastly, make clear to us you want to learn to do things. Like bathing (or “showering”). Like smelling the horse steroids. WHY NOT?? Last week another SM showed me how to pick hooves.

So there, my two big points are: be proactive and be curious. Hope my advice is helpful. It may be overwhelming at first, but you’ll be fine!

IU’s Serve IT Nonprofit Clinic Supports PALS

This past Spring semester, PALS began its partnership with IU’s Serve IT Nonprofit Clinic. Serve IT serves local non-profit organizations with a wide range of technological services provided by a staff of students, faculty, and employees. Abby Hillock, Jackson Wigley, Emy Stoner, Dan Eakle, Brad Jolly, Ying Yu Hong (not pictured), and graduate student liaison, Stephanie Kovanda (not pictured) worked collaboratively to design a fully-customized, cloud-supported database for PALS. We plan to house important client, volunteer, and horse information in the database which will significantly help streamline our day-to-day operations. We are so impressed by the team’s attention to detail and the level of expertise demonstrated by the students. With our partnership continuing through the summer, we are excited to see the final product and roll out a brand new volunteer hours tracking system. On behalf of the PALS staff, thank you for such a successful beginning to such a valuable partnership!

-Lindsay Nash, Development Associate

PALS Staff Insights

From the desk of Cindy Linsenbardt, PALS Instructor

I love being a part of PALS because…

I love sharing horses with others. In my life horses given me unconditional acceptance, confidence, calmness, and joy. I just want to share that with others, and being a therapeutic riding instructor gives me that opportunity.

One of my favorite PALS moments is…

When one of my riders progressed from holding the grab strap all the time to holding the reins with both hands and steering, increasing her confidence, strength, and balance. She was so proud of herself, and I was so proud of her.

Something most people don’t know about me…

I have a therapeutic riding blog called LessonsinTR ( geared at therapeutic riding instructors. I’ve met instructors all over the world through it, which has been fun!

Something I’d like you to know about PALS that you may not…

The amount of work that goes in to scheduling riders and planning their lessons. So much goes on behind the scenes. We plan horses, volunteers, goals, lesson plans, activities, write progress notes, track progress, and more. Everyone works hard to provide high quality lessons to our riders!

PALS Staff Insights


From the desk of Annie Cornett, PALS Assistant Director/Instructor (pictured with Bubba)

I love being a part of PALS because…

It allows me to combine several of my passions – my love for horses/riding as well as my desire to improve the lives of those around me.

One of my favorite PALS moments is…

I love when riders exceed their own expectations. The pure joy on their faces when they do something they’ve told us is “hard” or that they cannot do is priceless! 

Something most people don’t know about me…

I’m petrified of heights!

Something I’d like you to know about PALS that you may not...

While many people see the programs and riders on a weekly basis, the staff and volunteers who work behind the scenes on fundraising, outreach, and marketing contribute immensely to the success of the program. Their long hours and dedication can easily go overlooked, but their contributions are essential to the success of the organization. (So pop your head in and say “Hi” to Jennylynn and Lindsay!)

What Does a TR Session Look Like?


By Cindy Linsenbardt, PALS Instructor

PALS riders hop on their horse and get to ride. Parents and care givers bring these riders, watch from the sidelines, and applaud. Volunteers help prepare horses and assist in lessons. Therapeutic Riding Instructors set up the arena and teach the lesson. But is that it? What happens behind the scenes of a therapeutic riding lesson?

First the instructor comes up with goals and objectives for their riders. Every quarter instructors study their riders’ paperwork, talk with their parents and support team, and consider the clients’ life goals, physical abilities, and current riding skills. Then they create goals for their riders to help them meet their needs. For example, goals might include “Improve core strength,” “Improve social skills,” “Demonstrate posting trot,” or “Compete in Special Olympics.” Then the instructor sets specific objectives for the riding sessions that will help the rider meet these goals. Objectives might include “Demonstrate correct posture during 4 walk-trot-walk transitions each session” to help improve core strength, or “Perform direct rein steering through a dressage pattern with minimal verbal reminders 2 times” to help prepare for Special Olympics. Objectives are specific and measurable, so at the end of the quarter instructors can record whether clients met their goals or not.

Second, instructors write lesson plans for each session. The lesson plan helps the rider meet these objectives through planned teaching and progression. The lesson plan typically consists of:
1. Mount
2. Warm Up
3. Learn or Review Riding Skill
4. Practice Riding Skill
5. Progress Riding Skill Independence
6. Activity
7. Cool Down & Review
8. Dismount

Often instructors include obstacle courses, games, or patterns as a place for riders to practice their riding skills. Props give clients visual aids, help keep their attention, and can give motivation. During the lesson instructors teach the rider how to ride by explaining what riding skill to use, why we need to use it, how to use it, and where to use it. They also provide feedback through positively praising the riding when they do something well, and telling the rider how to improve. When providing instructions or feedback, instructors make adaptations as needed – sometimes a rider needs physical assistance from the sidewalkers, or needs extra wait time for motor planning to do the skill, or needs extra verbal prompts to focus. All of these are included in the lesson plan, because through planning the instructor can specifically guide the rider through learning and new skill, practicing it, and eventually progressing to do it on their own!

Third, instructors write progress notes and evaluate how to help the rider improve. After each lesson instructors record for each rider what was taught, how they responded, what their strengths and weaknesses were, and suggestions for next time. They also evaluate their own teaching and how to improve next session.

Lastly, instructors must keep in mind the big picture at all times. This includes safety in the arena, the team of rider, horse and volunteers and how good a fit they are, different disabilities and how to make adaptations for them, how the rider and horse are doing that particular day, how the weather is impacting the lesson, and so on!

A lot more goes on in the therapeutic riding lesson than at first appears. We hope this gives you some insight into all the hard work our instructors put in to their lessons, and that the next time you watch or participate in a session you have a deeper understanding of what is going on. Try to spot all the lesson plan components the next time you are at PALS!

Becoming a Certified Instructor

By: Cindy Linsenbardt, PALS Instructor

PALS would like to welcome our 3 new Instructors in Training: Christa, Taylor and Kelly! We are excited to help them through the process of becoming Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors through PATH Intl. In light of their commitment, we want to share with everyone what it takes to become a therapeutic riding instructor.

Before starting the process, you must have enough horse experience to be familiar with horse care, and able to ride at the walk, trot and canter with balance and control. You should have experience as a sidewalker, leader, and even exercise rider at a PATH Intl therapeutic riding center. You should be self-motivated and teachable, because the process involves lots of studying at home, and adapting to the PATH Intl Standards. You should also be committed, professional, and able to meet the time and cost requirements. It takes $700-$1200 total, along with weekly training sessions, and teaching 2-3 weekly sessions!

Once you think you’re ready, apply for the PALS Instructor Training Program. When you are accepted, we will help you through the process with PATH Intl, train you how to teach, and help you get your instructing hours!

The process with PATH Intl takes place in two phases. During Phase 1 you study material at home, take two online courses and tests, get your Adult and Child CPR/First AID Certification, complete a Horsemanship Skills checklist, and can start documenting your teaching hours. The two online courses are about the PATH Intl Center Accreditation Standards, and Instructor Training. Both are open book and open for several months. Through these courses you learn about international safety standards, and important instructing and horsemanship skills. When you complete all these requirements, you receive your “Instructor in Training Letter” and have 1 year to complete the process! During this time PALS gives you guidance and resources, begins teaching you how to be an instructor, and guides you through shadowing lessons.

During Phase 2 you complete your 25 hours of instructing group sessions under the guidance of a PATH Intl Mentor, and prepare for the Riding Test. It is recommended you take lessons to improve your own riding skills. You also fill out Phase 2 paperwork, which includes an Instructor Resume, Profession and Personal References, and Essay Questions. At this time PALS helps you through your teaching hours, lesson and goal planning, and ongoing questions about teaching. When you have all your hours completed and finished the paperwork, you attend an On-Site Workshop and Certification (OSWC).

The OSWC is the last step! You attend a 4 day workshop at a PATH Intl Center, where you learn and practice therapeutic instruction techniques. The last 1.5 days consist of a Riding Test and Teaching Test. You must pass both to become Certified. For the Riding Test you ride one of the center’s horses (or your own) through a pattern including the walk, trot, canter, bending, changing diagonals, and circles. For the Teaching Test you teach a group lesson of 2 riders with disabilities. At the end of the certification you receive your results. If you pass both tests, you are officially certified! If you pass one, you may video resubmit the other. If you fail both, you attend another certification.

As you can see, the process is quite long and requires a big commitment! This is because being a therapeutic riding instructor requires a high degree of knowledge about horses, riding, safety standards, and disabilities in order to provide high quality, safe and effective services. However, with careful preparation and training, within a year you can become a PATH Intl Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and able to teach lessons at therapeutic riding barns such as PALS.

So if you see Christa, Taylor or Kelly around the barn, encourage them, they are on a big journey! We are sure you will be seeing a lot more of them around the barn this Spring and Summer, as they prepare for the Certification held at PALS in September!

2014 PALS Mane Event Featured in Herald Times

May 13th, 2014

PALS Mane Event fundraiser set for June 20

Hoosier Times | Saturday, May 10, 2014 5:00 pm

The PALS Mane Event, an annual fundraiser for People and Animal Learning Services Inc. will take place at 6 p.m. June 20 in Indiana University’s Alumni Hall. PALS is a nonprofit organization that provides therapeutic equine activities for individuals with disabilities and at-risk youth.

The Derby-themed evening will begin with beer and wine tasting courtesy of Bloomington Brewing Co., Chateau Thomas Winery, Cutters Brewing Co., Flat 12 Bierwerks, Oliver Winery, Manolo’s Wines, Sun King Brewing Co. and Vanguard Wines. There will be live music, a silent auction, dinner and a live auction hosted by auctioneer Jimmie Dean Coffey — with items such as jewelry, artwork and vacation packages to a variety of destinations. Drink selections at dinner will be provided by Oliver Winery and Bloomington Brewing Co. Derby attire is encouraged.

Tickets are $65 per person, and guests must be 21 years old with a valid ID to attend. All proceeds from the event support PALS riders, programs and horses. For event information, go to , email or call 812-336-2798, ext. 18.

PALS’ Veterans Program Featured in Herald Times

May 13th, 2014

PALS offers new program for veterans

Special to the H-T |  Tuesday, May 13, 2014 3:10 am

PALS (People and Animal Learning Services) is proud to offer a new program designed especially for Indiana’s veterans. The new initiative, incorporating both philosophies and techniques central to the organization’s mission, aids our most deserving community members by providing support and assistance with the healing of physical or emotional wounds including injuries and accidents suffered on duty, PTSD, stress, depression and much more.

As veteran riding programs continue to grow across the country, PALS is right at the forefront of the movement dedicated to helping veterans transition from active duty to civilian life. The unique approach to each participant not only addresses a veteran’s individual needs but provides an opportunity for  camaraderie to form with others participating in the program.

Veterans have the opportunity to learn and practice everything from grooming to riding during their sessions, with the goal of forming a unique drill team. In addition to the riding program, participants will have the opportunity to meet and interact with other local veterans participating in a BBQ honoring their participation.

To provide the program, PALS has partnered with the well-known Wounded Warrior Project, which provides veterans and service members who have incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, and their families with a variety of services. In conjunction with WWP, PALS will have the opportunity to offer 10 free sessions to alumni of the WWP.To learn more about the WWP, visit

Interested in getting involved? This new program requires a great deal of support from the community to be successful. PALS is recruiting volunteers with a passion for serving the veterans who’ve served our community and country (no horse experience necessary). BBQ experts and local organizations serving veterans are encouraged to get involved as well. Everyone interested, please contact PALS head instructor Cindy at or 812-336-2798, ext. 14, for more details or check out the website .


Herald Times Covers PALS Fun Show

September 27th, 2013

Horse-riding demos part of PALS free “Fun Show”

By Dann Denny 331-4350 | | Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013 2:17pm

There will be horse-riding demonstrations by 40 to 50 riders at the 13th Annual People and Animal Learning Services free “Fun Show” from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at its new facility at 7644 W. Elwren Road.

“Last year we had 400 guests, but this year we hope to have even more because we have a better facility,” said Fern Bonchek, PALS’ executive director. “We’re very excited about this year’s event.”

Groups of riders will participate at 10 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m., demonstrating such things as dressage, walking, trotting and obstacle courses. Each group will have an honorary judge from the community, who will give the riders participation ribbons and trophies, plus some positive feedback after their demonstrations.

“The event has two purposes,” Bonchek said. “First, it gives people an opportunity to come see what we do here. Second, it gives our riders an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in front of family and friends and be proud of what they’ve accomplished during the year.”

During the day there will be door prizes and kids’ activities such as a horseshoe throwing competition and horse-themed face painting. From 11 a.m.-3 p.m. the Big Cheese Food Truck will serve a variety of cheese sandwiches, soups and beverages.

There also will be a PALS’s Volunteer of the Year Award given to two volunteers as well as a Rider of the Year award.

The event’s sponsors are Dr. Sterling Doster, Ken Nunn Law Office, IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians, Crowder’s Healthcare Pharmacy, Bloom Magazine, The Trojan Horse, WFIU, Awards Center, Crane Federal Credit Union, Stokes & Housel CPA’s, Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC, Commercial Service of Bloomington, and Hoosier Energy R.E.C., BloomingtonOnline.NET

Since its inception in 2000, PALS has provided individualized therapeutic equine programs designed by professionals to develop and restore functional skills, enhance well-being and improve quality of life. PALS has provided more than 17,600 therapeutic horseback riding lessons, various educational programs, and camp opportunities for people with disabilities.

Check Out PALS in the Herald Times

September 11th, 2013


On August 23rd PALS was featured in a spotlight article in the Herald Times.

Click Here to read the article entitled: “Therapeutic Riding Program PALS Celebrates New Forever Home in Bloomington”

PALS Looking to Add Professionals to Team!

June 22nd, 2013


Looking to become part of a growing organization serving our community? PALS is currently searching for professionals to join our team! With over a decade of service, PALS continues to provide high quality therapeutic equine programs to individuals with disabilities, impairments, and chronic illness in Monroe and surrounding counties. Please click the link below to learn more about available opportunities.

Click here for more information.



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