A Chronological History

Therapeutic Riding & CARD

460-377 BC
  • Hippocrates includes riding in a chapter on “natural exercise”

  • Huronymus Merkurialis of Italy writes “The Art of Gymnastics,” discussing riding and its effects on the restoration and maintenance of health.

  • Dame Agnes Hunt founds the first orthopedic hospital in Oswestry, England. She finds great value in using horses and riding with patients.

  • Miss Olive Sands, a physiotherapist, takes her horses to a hospital outside Oxford, providing riding programs for soldiers disabled during World War 1.

  • Therapeutic riding in the UK progresses from polio patients to amputees and people with other disabilities.

  • Dame Liz Hartel, who was paralyzed by polio and confined to a wheelchair when not on a horse, inspires therapeutic riding pioneers by winning a Silver metal for dressage at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.

Early 1950s
  • Mrs. Elsebet Bodthker, a Norwegian physiotherapist and accomplished horsewoman, meets Mme. Hartel. Noting the physical progress, Mrs. Bodthker begins teaching polio patients to ride, using basic equestrian exercises and other techniques developed by clinic physiotherapists.
  • Ulla Harpoth, a physiotherapist in Copenhagen, begins recommending riding to her patients. After only a few months, children and adolescents disabled by poliomyelitis see numerous benefits.

  • Olympic-style games for athletes with disabilities were held in Rome, with 400 athletes. Riding as a form of therapy for children and adults with disabilities gains popularity in the United States.


The UK formed its first “Advisory Council” for riding for the disabled.

  • Dr. Renaud and Mr. Bauer bring therapeutic riding to Canada.

  • CARD was founded by Dr. Reginald Renaud and Mr. Joseph Bauer, who were impressed by the idea of therapeutic riding, and convinced of its benefits.
  • CARD is incorporated as the first therapeutic riding centre in Canada. It operates out of several stables north of the city on borrowed horses, and with the help of volunteers.
  • CARD’s first rider was Louise Simmonds, who worked with Dr. Renaud, and was quadriplegic.

Click Here to see more on CARD in the 60’s!

  • Mayor Mel Lastman, advocating on CARD’s behalf with the City of North York, the Conservation Authority and the Department of Parks and Recreation, secured land in G. Ross Lord Park for a permanent facility
  • The facility was built with the support of the Variety Club and Wintario, and named The Variety Club Equestrian Centre. The opening was officiated by HRH Princess Anne on November 16, 1979.
  • The cost to build the facility was more than $700,000, and CARD continues to lease the land in G. Ross Lord Park for $2 a year
  • CARD’s name was formally changed to the Community Association for Riding for the Disabled.
  • The program ran primarily during the evening and on weekends, and was staffed by an Executive Director, Equestrian Director, Physiotherapist, and a Stable Manager.



  • The Federation Riding for the Disabled International (FRDI) is founded to create links between therapeutic riding and driving centres, and to assist in developing programs worldwide.
  • CanTRA, the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association, is formed. . Committed to promoting challenge and achievement for young people and adults with disabilities through the use of the horse, the organization has grown to almost one hundred member riding centres across Canada and is growing in membership and scope.

  • Demand for CARD’s therapeutic riding program continued to grow – by the early 1990s the program was operating 6 days a week from morning to evening
  • CARD now had 300 active riders and a waiting list of up to 5 years with another 300 or more riders.

  • CARD was chosen to host the International Congress for Riders with Disabilities – the event is attended by Captain Mark Phillips.
  • CARD restructures its program to incorporate the medical teaching model of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) and now offers classes in Hippotherapy, Psycho-Education, Rehabilitation and Adapted Sport.

  • CARD becomes a premier accredited centre with NAHRA (the North American Handicapped Riding Association).

  • 3 of 5 CARD riders competing are selected for the Canadian Equestrian Team for Riders with Disabilities. The team competes in Denmark and earns a bronze medal.

  • Equestrian sports become an official Paralympic sport at the Games in Sydney. It is the largest event in Paralympic history with 122 countries participating!

  • CARD’s accreditation is renewed as a premier therapeutic riding centre in North America.

  • CARD’s program is restructured to ensure all riders are assessed and placed in the appropriate classes.
  • Instructors are encouraged to certify with either CanTRA or NAHRA (and preferably both).
  • CARD horse trainers are now required to complete OEF (Ontario Equestrian Federation) Level 1 & 2 tests.

  • CARD now has 14 certified instructors and a ridership of approximately 600.
  • CARD celebrates 50 years of quality therapeutic riding programs.  They do this with the help of 300 volunteers, 5 full time staff members, _6_part time staff and the 15 therapy horses that make up the CARD herd.  A new name was introduced and CARD is now referred to as The Community Association for Riders with Disabilities. In 2018 a new logo was presented which will take us into the next 50 years of CARD!