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MSU horse therapy center is accredited
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Simply gaining national accreditation for its riding program for people with disabilities was not enough. Mississippi State University's 4-H TEAM aimed for and reached 100 percent of the national standards.
Mississippi State 4-H TEAM, or Therapeutic Equine Activity Member, was granted national accreditation in January from the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association through the Premier Accredited Center Program. The group is the only such organization in the state to have this accreditation.
"Our program was established as a model educational and promotional therapeutic riding program," said Mary Ford, coordinator of 4-H TEAM. "We exist to encourage and assist other centers in developing their own therapeutic riding program and becoming accredited."
Gaining accreditation was a year-long process. The national organization, NARHA, established 88 standards for organizations seeking accreditation to meet. Eleven of the standards are mandatory, while organizations must comply with 80 percent of the rest to be accredited.
"We went for 100 percent and got 100 percent," Ford said of MSU's effort.
Accreditation standards were established to assure quality services to clients and to help define the scope and purpose of service. They also assure a safe and suitable work environment and satisfy clients and outside agencies of consistent operational quality.
"All the standards we complied with were for the betterment of our program," Ford said. "By reaching this premier accreditation, the TEAM program demonstrated that it met the national safety standards for the therapeutic riding industry."
The Mississippi State 4-H TEAM operates its therapeutic riding program from MSU's Mississippi Horse Park. Ford said about one-fourth of the accreditation standards related to the facility, and she praised the Horse Park's involvement in the accreditation process.
"This sets up the Mississippi Horse Park as a premier center," Ford said.
4-H TEAM operates a small therapeutic riding program with four horses and volunteers who serve clients on Tuesday mornings. They teach clients to ride horses and through the process, receive physical and emotional benefits. 4-H TEAM also offers hippotherapy, in which a physical therapist works individually with a patient using a horse as a therapy tool.
Earning national accreditation was a group effort involving the 4-H TEAM volunteers, the 4-H staff, MSU's Animal and Dairy Science Department and the Mississippi Horse Park.