The non-profit 501(c)(3) J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center, located in San Juan Capistrano, began in 1978 as The Orange County Riding Center. It was founded by Nancy and Derek Lewis for their son, Michael, who was born with cerebral palsy. Because social worker and equestrienne, Fran Joswick, was the Center’s first instructor and executive director, the Center was renamed the Fran Joswick Therapeutic Riding Center. In 2001, the J.F. Shea Co., Inc. donated eight acres of land for a permanent facility and the Center was again renamed as the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center.
Accredited at the “premier” level by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), The Shea Center is internationally recognized for its excellence in therapeutic programs. It is also is a therapeutic riding training facility drawing interns and students from around the world.
The modest beginnings of The Shea Center have yielded an organization that has become one of the top equine assisted therapy centers in the world. The Center now serves over 1,200 participants each year and provides more than 14,000 hours of client services annually. Utilizing 23 horses and the assistance of more than 800 community volunteers, the Center has grown to be an organization with a $4 million annual operating budget.
The Center’s team consists of 28 full-time and 17 part-time and contract staff members. All instructors and therapy professionals who perform evaluations, assessments, and create individualized treatment programs for their clients are PATH Intl. certified.
Over 75 distinct disabilities are addressed through a variety of programs that include physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
The Shea Center’s state-of-the-art equestrian facility consists of two covered arenas, one open arena, a forty-stall barn, two round pens, a farrier and veterinarian area, and riding trails.
The Klein Family Education & Therapy Building provides indoor space for an inclusive fitness center, physical, speech, and occupational therapy clinics, rooms for teaching and training, and facilities for instructors, staff, and volunteers.
The Center offers a financial aid program for current and past military families as well as a sliding scale of fees for those in need of financial assistance.