ATHENA Horse Training for Development & Growth

A horse training intervention that teaches people with neuro-psychiatric conditions to rehabilitate, train and maintain horses for therapeutic programs. Lunging and long reining to build muscle, rhythm and balance. In-hand work (shoulder-in, counter shoulder-in, travers, half pass and renvers) to build suppleness and trainability. Softening groundwork (jaw, poll and lumbar flexions) to create a horse that moves fluidly, feels physically and emotionally good, and who can therefore impart its own wellbeing to a client whether working in the saddle or on the ground. 

ATHENA has been especially successful with wounded warriors preparing horses for special needs children. The program was pioneered through New Trails Learning Systems at the Ride On Center for Kids (the PATH training center in Austin, TX), The Remount Foundation of the US Airforce Academy, and with the German Bundeswehr. But you don’t have to be a veteran or a young adult with neuro-psychiatric conditions. Any one who wants to train, improve, maintain or rehab a horse should learn ATHENA.

Many therapeutic riding centers struggle finding time to maintain their horses’ training and physical condition, and this impacts their ability to serve clients. ATHENA provides the solution by creating trainers out of the adult and young adult client group – thus getting the horse trained while also serving those clients selected as trainers – because the training process has it’s own therapeutic value. Then, in turn, the better muscled and suppled horses can better serve the second set of riding clients. ATHENA is thus a win, win, win, win: empowerment for the adult client group doing the training, physical and mental wellbeing for the horses, a better riding experience for the riding clients, and no more time conflict between training and delivery of service for the therapeutic riding staff. 

To see in depth what we do, watch the video below:

ATHENA Horse Training for Development & Growth Read More »


“Thinking what I want and getting the horse to do it was awesome”

“Both Blue and Durango are skittish horses. They had to learn to trust that I was going to be calm with them. I was willing to be patient and let them learn on their timing and not my agenda.”

Mindfulness Read More »


“Accomplishing the task I asked the horse puts you on a great high.”

“What I most experienced during this ATHENA Pilot was a building confidence in my capacity to handle a horse. I felt my confidence grow but only AFTER I witnessed the confidence of both Blue and Durango increase. They led my way.”

Self-Efficacy Read More »


“I feel I got better at asking questions to better myself with the techniques”

“referring to my ability to communicate with my horse. I actually felt a stronger bond with Blue than other horses I have actually ridden because I was a witness to how hard Blue was trying to do what I was asking him to do. Something completely novel for both of us.”

Communication Read More »

ATHENA Pilot Study

We completed 7 out of 8 possible weeks of the ATHENASM pilot with one week cancelled due to thunderstorms. 7 out of 8 weeks had 100% attendance. One week had 2 participants out. The program served 4 veterans and 2 equine partners.

Participants and equine partners demonstrated success in long lining at the walk and trot, lunging at the walk and trot, identifying and releasing the 3 points of resistance, and first steps of shoulders in and quarters in in hand. All work was designed to improve equine partners balance, muscle and rhythm so they can begin taking weight on the hind legs. When practiced regularly, this work strengthens equine partners physically and mentally for the demands of riding, therapeutic or otherwise, creating safer and sounder equine partners.


4/4 participants report improvements in horsemanship skills, communication, self-efficacy, and mindfulness.

4/4 enjoyed the program and would like to continue.

Group reported a decrease in anxiety (-16%), increase in mood (13%), and no significant decrease in pain (-1%) per weekly pre and post session self reports.

More relevant research

To find more research check out our main website’s research section:

ATHENA Pilot Study Read More »

ATHENA Horsemanship Method 1: equine training track

Duration: 2 days (aprox. 6h per day)


  • $350 per day

Designed for:

  • Therapeutic riding instructors
  • Equine managers
  • Conditioning teams
  • Anyone who wants to improve their equine training skills


  • Age 16 and older; neuro-typical only (for young adults on the spectrum check with your trainer regarding participation)
  • Must  be able to comfortably walk in arena footing for extended amounts of time.

What will be covered in ATHENA: Horse Training for Development & Growth 1?

  • Theory and basic neuro-science: A brief history of classical training: how this work can strengthen an equine partner physically and mentally so that they provide the most therapeutic movement for participants and feel good while doing it.
  • Equipment: what you need, how to use it, why it matters, and where to get it.
  • Introducing equine partners to long lining: building and strengthen the topline.
  • Introducing equine partners to the 3 phases of lunging: creating balance, muscle, and rhythm.
  • Introducing equine partners to the start of in hand work: releasing the 3 points of resistance, shoulder in, and quarters in. Creating an equine partner that says YES!

What to bring

  • Please bring appropriate footwear (closed toed shoes) and gloves. 
  • Please bring plenty of water to drink and something to snack on.
  • Notebook and pen

ATHENA Horsemanship Method 1: equine training track Read More »

I enjoyed:

 “Learning new skills on ground and different conditioning of the horses”

“Good program. Thank you for the opportunity”

“learning all these new techniques and ways to work and bond with the horses is great”

I enjoyed: Read More »

ATHENA℠ Horsemanship Method 2: Preparation of your horse

  • $450 per horse you are planning to train and use for your ATHENASM Program

This phase will be through remote teaching. In this phase you will be submitting video of the horse you want to train for the job to us. The videos will be along the lines of what has been taught in the 2 day introduction course.

We will evaluate the video and give you feedback on them until your horse is ready for the program.

ATHENA℠ Horsemanship Method 2: Preparation of your horse Read More »