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!

What I've Learned from PALS Clients

By: Kaitlyn Smith

My experience with PALS riders haschanged my life. After I began volunteering four years ago, a domino effect occurred. I changed my major to recreational therapy, which in turn changed my career path, which changed my perspective of life and my identity. I was drawn to PALS programs because of the horses. I was honestly very nervous about working with individuals with disabilities. Since then, however, I have never looked back.My experiences with PALS riders have collectively taught me three principles. I have used what I learned at PALS and applied it to my practice as a recreational therapist and my personal life.

1. Never underestimate an individual’s abilities

PALS riders have taught me time and time again that they are capable of accomplishing ANYTHING! PALS riders are strong and motivated. This combination gives them the power to persevere and overcome any obstacles they may face. In life, there is often more emphasis on the negative and what riders can’t do. At PALS, it is our job to focus on abilities, rather than disabilities. With the support of an instructor, volunteers, and a horse, PALS riders are provided an environment to learn, progress, break down barriers, and most importantly, enjoy participation in a unique leisure activity.

2. Learning is a two way street.

PALS riders are not only learning from others, but also teaching. I have always said that my riders teach me more than I could ever teach them. I facilitate an environment in the arena conducive to play, fun, and learning, and as a result, our riders teach others about their capabilities and unwavering dedication to improving their skills. PALS riders have taught me more than I could ever learn in a classroom. Their patience, kindness, and motivation have educated so many others about the ever-increasing potential every individual has. PALS riders continue to provide learning opportunities for others while rising to meet new challenges during every ride.

3. Horses are very powerful animals

I am not referring to their sheer size and associated strength. I am referring to their power to connect people. Horses connect instructors and volunteers to riders who may have not otherwise met.  By connecting people, horses also connect riders with learning experiences. Whether we are working to improve social skills, core strength, or using proper aids, horses become learning tools to developing life skills. They foster independent relationships with each of their riders, which serves as the foundation to providing meaningful connections to learning and to people.

These three principles merely summarize what PALS riders have taught me. If it weren’t for my experience with amazing riders, their families, volunteers, and horses, I would not be the person I am today. I will forever be grateful for my involvement in PALS programs. To my riders I will say: Keep up the good work! You never know when I might be stopping by…Heels down, thumbs up, and have a great ride!

PALS Staff Insights

From the desk of Fern Goodman, PALS Executive Director (with Jude’s Assistance)

I love being a part of PALS because…

…of the benefits our clients get and the beautiful relationships that they build with our horses, staff and volunteers.

One of my favorite PALS moments is…

…when our dream came true and we were able to purchase the facility off Elwren Road.

Something most people don’t know about me…

I can’t whistle!

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

When I started PALS we used only borrowed horses and 2 of them were owned by my parents and I had to trailer them back and forth each day for sessions.

IU Service Learning Partnership Insight


By Katie W., PALS Volunteer/Service Learner

When I first began volunteering at PALS, I was a sophomore studying sport marketing and management. Although I knew I would enjoy working with the horses at the barn, I never even imagined how much I’d enjoy working with the riders. Because I enjoy working with the riders so much, I decided to change my
major to recreational therapy, so that I can help individuals with disabilities reach their full potential and experience recreational activities. Although my recreational therapy classes are challenging, they’re also incredibly rewarding and exciting, because I have the opportunity to volunteer in many of them.

As part of one of my core recreational therapy class, I volunteer at PALS as a “service learner,” along with the other recreational therapy students in my class. As a service learner, I complete many of the same tasks that I did as a horse leader and a stable manager, however I now have the chance to work more directly with the instructors to assess riders, and help them create goals for riders. Even though we learn about assessments and creating goals for clients in class, it has been immensely beneficial to actually have the opportunity to put those skills into action. Along with practicing what I learn in class, I also have the opportunity to see how beneficial equine-assisted therapy is for the riders at PALS. By seeing first-hand how happy the riders are while they’re at PALS, and how much they grow throughout a single session, I have become even more motivated to learn the skills that I need to become a recreational therapist.

Having the opportunity to be a service learner and a volunteer at PALS has been priceless. I’m incredibly lucky to have the chance to learn from such great instructors, work with such great horses and help such fantastic riders achieve their goals.

Taking that first step...

By Sarah A., PALS Rider’s Parent

I know you, and you know me. Sometimes we see each other in the barn. Sometimes our lessons are together. Sometimes ours is just ending and yours is beginning. I have been here for years, but I can see that you are new. You are watching them lift your precious child onto the back of this monstrous animal. Your precious child that you would do ANYTHING for. You would take them to countless doctors and therapists and voodoo witch doctors just in the hopes that something will help. Something will make their life easier. And here you are in a horse barn probably questioning your sanity. I’ve been there. But I can tell you, for the first time ever, you are home. You see this big barn, you will come to love it. The chill in the winter, the heat of the summer, the barn cat that will become your new best friend. I have been in your shoes (that may become boots if you stick with us long enough). I was scrambling, scared. I was searching for something to save my baby. Therapy was draining her. Nothing was working and she was losing any sight of the beautiful child she truly is. Then I heard fern on the radio talking about PALS and I thought, “what do we have to lose?!” Helen was 4 when she first was lifted onto the back of Cody. Today when she climbs on she is 9. It’s hard to remember the little girl she was, but I do know one thing. She was broken. As we all know, therapy is hard. They push those kids. I know why they do, but I saw how it made her feel like a failure. Everything was hard and it seemed like she was never good enough. It seemed we were doing therapy for everything. Now, we do PALS and that is it. Helen has never once called PALS therapy because to her it simply it is not. It is her passion. Her instructor and her side walkers, those are her friends. And Cody, well, he is her best friend! PALS is an activity, an interest.  Her classmates can identify with it.  Instead of being the girl who is different, she is the girl who rides horses.  How cool is that? So take a deep breath, and give these beautiful creatures a chance.  The result could change your entire world!

A PALS Volunteer's Experience

By: Emily Turpin

I began volunteering at PALS in March of 2013 for a class project at IU. I
loved volunteering at PALS so much; I decided to continue volunteering after my project was over. PALS has taught me so much throughout my two years with them. I came to them with hardly any horse experience. I had gone horseback riding three times in my entire life and PALS welcomed me with open arms. I learned how to groom and tack the horse, as well as horse etiquette and other daily chores performed throughout the day. I started out as a side walker, assisting and interacting with the rider during lessons. Through side walking, I learned the importance of safety, encouragement and patience.

Through volunteering at PALS, I was able to find my passion for Recreational Therapy. One of my greatest passions is working with individuals with disabilities, and getting to help them reach goals and gain independence while having fun learning to ride a horse was very rewarding to me and further confirmed that recreational therapy was the right career choice for me. As a future Recreational Therapist, I was able to gain an abundance of hands on learning through my experiences at PALS. I have gained leadership skills and learned a lot about working  in a team, which I will be able to apply in my career as a Recreational Therapist.  I have gained hands on experience with the APIE process, which will be extremely useful in my career as well.

Working with Annie (PALS Assistant Director/Instructor) and the other PALS staff, I have seen first hand the hard work and dedication they put forth every day and their compassion for others inspires me to do the same. I have gained many friendships through volunteering that will last far beyond my time here at PALS. I feel very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people and will cherish all I have learned and accomplished here at PALS.

2015 - Making Strides, Changing Lives

Welcome to 2015! We’re excited for all the new year has in store — including this blog which will help you stay up to date on news and events at PALS, but will also provide some behind the scenes perspectives from riders, volunteers, parents, and staff members!

There are already so many great things happening at PALS this year and I am personally very excited to share news about new staff roles and growing programs coming your way in the new year.

Our first bit of news is that Kara Szabo, our former Barn Manager, is transitioning to PALS Head Instructor! Kara has worked so hard for PALS over the years and we are thrilled to have her in this leadership role. Cindy will still be part of the PALS family, instructing here on a part-time basis.

We are also excited to welcome Deirdre “De” Stanton, who has been a PALS part-time instructor for years, as PALS’ Program Coordinator. De will be coordinating all special programs, Veterans, Camps, Pony Club, Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), PATH Instructor Workshop / Certification and Mini Outings, just to name a few. She will also facilitate unmounted activities and oversee client recruitment for all special programs. I hope that you will help me welcome De to this new role in 2015!

Since moving into our wonderful new facility, PALS has been able to focus on improving our core programs and developing brand new programs that will serve our community. We have many programs outlined for 2015. In addition to expanding our standard Therapeutic Riding, Recreational Riding, Veterans and Camp programs, we plan to develop new initiatives including a PALS Pony Club and an Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) program. More details to come, so stay tuned!

Please keep an eye on our calendar at for upcoming dates for programs and events. Hope to see you around PALS sometime soon. My door is always open!

Fern Goodman
PALS Executive Director

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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