Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship give all a chance to ride into the sunset

Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship, a Scottsdale-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 1980 out of the desire to bring the joys of horsemanship to all people no matter what obstacles to riding presented. (Submitted photo)

The American cowboy of the wild west is a fantasy few of us can resist.

And, the community has positioned itself as “The West’s Most Western Town” complete with annual events that support the western traditions held by those who founded Scottsdale.

But not all of us were born with the same abilities to ride a horse and get a taste of what it might have felt like to be a cowboy — or a cowgirl — when the idea of multi-transit was a stagecoach ride.

All are welcome to learn the ins and outs of horsemanship at Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship. (Submitted photo)

Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship, a Scottsdale-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 1980 out the desire to bring the joys of horsemanship to all people no matter what obstacles to riding was presented.

“The purpose of all we do at Camelot is to empower children and adults with disabilities to dream big and to set goals,” said Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship Executive Director Mary Hadsall.

“Camelot was founded in 1980 and incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1983 by Eileen Szychowski, a long time equestrian as well as a woman with a disability. Eileen studied and trained at Dragon Slayers, a program in Santa Cruz, for seven years before moving to Arizona to start bring her dream of Camelot to life.”
Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship is at 6250 E. Jomax Road in north Scottsdale.

Ms. Hadsall says Camelot is a curriculum-based horseback riding program for children and adults with physical disabilities.

“The emphasis of our program is educational, therapeutic, and vocational. Many of our riders have gone on to have horses of their own, so we strive to cover all aspects of horsemanship, riding as well as carriage driving,” she explained.  “Camelot’s mission is to improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through programs of horsemanship and outdoor education that develop self-worth, independence, and active participation in the community.”

Learning to ride a horse is a good real-life experience those with disabilities can relate to, Ms. Hadsall explains.

“We encourage all who participates to become their own self advocate and to work towards greater independence. Riding skills transfers very easily to daily life skills,” she explained.

“While learning to buckle helmets, tighten girths, adjust tack and other riding equipment, students develop skills that can improve their day to day activities. For students that need greater physical assistance, learning the social skills to manage a team of volunteers can be a big step towards personal independence and safety.”

Actively working toward personal independence and safety is where the Scottsdale Charros come into the picture as The Charro Foundation provides Camelot with an annual grant this most recent year in the amount of $5,000.

“Funding received from The Charro Foundation goes directly toward our program services,” Ms. Hadsall said. “I have PATH International certified riding instructors on staff providing the highest caliber riding lessons to our students. Monies received have been applied to offset those hard costs.”

For 56 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

“The Charro Foundation has made a significant difference on Camelot’s bottom line. We are a grassroots organization working hard every day for our community,” Ms. Hadsall said.

“Camelot does not charge for services, nor do we receive any state of government funding. We are 100% supported by private grants and donations. Raising funding in and of itself is a full time job. Having the support of The Charro’s Foundation behind us means more of my time and energy can be on our students and quality lessons!”

Those quality lessons sometimes lead to a broadening of horizons participants didn’t fist think they could attain, Ms. Hadsall contends.

“Students discover that horses can them places their equipment might not be able to. Leaving wheelchairs, walkers and crutches behind, our riders can explore the beautiful desert that is Camelot’s home,” she said.

“One young rider when interviewed for our fall gala a few years ago said ‘I don’t have to sit on the sidelines at Camelot’ Powerful words to hear from a 9-year-old.”

While Ms. Hadsall acknowledges there are other therapeutic horseback riding programs in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Camelot takes a slightly different approach.

“Here we put the emphasis on quality vs. quantity. All students receive private riding instruction tailored towards their individual goals and needs,” she said. “Our lesson season runs from the end of September through Memorial Day and during this time riders will proceed through a comprehensive curriculum developed to ensure all receive a solid foundation in horsemanship.”

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A view of a day at Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship in north Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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