Utilizing equine therapy, Queen of Hearts Therapeutic Riding Center in Jurupa Valley assists those who have physical and developmental disabilities achieve physical and mental improvements which enhance their daily lives.

QOH was founded in 1998 and is a Premier Accredited Center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. Whether clients are born with or acquire disabilities later in life, the activities involving horses at the facility are designed to help improve their physical and life skills.

Robin Kilcoyne, the executive director, feels strongly that riding horses helps clients improve their balance and coordination, enhance neurological resources, increase motor skills, and even assist with speech. She also notes that people with new injuries are managing the emotional and mental adjustment of having a new normal.

“Working with a horse helps you rediscover your abilities and confidence,” Kilcoyne said.

Kilcoyne, a U.S. Army veteran , also works with disabled war veterans. She said that because horses are prey species, reacting to their environment with hyper-vigilance, they can be particularly effective as therapy for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress. Focusing on the moment and the horse, an individual can lower their stress and remain calm.

“One of our clients, a veteran and a firefighter, said that riding a horse was the first time he felt he was able to breathe again,” she said.

Even individuals who are wheelchair bound may have opportunities to ride. QOH was able to purchase a lift and an adaptive saddle with a grant from the James Bernard and Mildred Jordan Fund through The Community Foundation. Clients are lifted into the adaptive saddle where they are able to sit securely and ride with walkers assisting. When mounted astride a walking horse, the rider’s body is put through a variety of movements that are very similar to those of a human walking. The rider responds to the motions with improved body symmetry, improved muscle tone, increased head and neck control and improved balance.

It takes a sound horse with an excellent temperament in order to assist in equine therapy. All of the horses at QOH have been donated. Some have come from homes where the owner could no longer afford their care. Others have been rehabilitated from abusive homes.

The program also requires a tremendous amount of volunteer hours.

“Some classes require three or four volunteers to be side walkers,” Kilcoyne said. “Also, the horses need care 24/7. We couldn’t do this without them.”

A side benefit to the program for Kilcoyne has been watching some of her high school-aged volunteers grow up to study in the medical field. Simply working with the horses offers volunteers the opportunity to learn life skills.

“Volunteers and interns who come in learn job skills and responsibility,” she said. “The animals have to be cared for no matter how you feel or what the weather looks like.”

While volunteers keep the costs down, the organization still relies on donations and funding that can be difficult to secure. There is currently no funding for staff and Kilcoyne would like to change that. Kilcoyne also imagines someday having a 10-acre facility with four arenas, growing her programming and her ability to help others.

She notes that not everyone understands the work they do.

“It’s not just a pony ride,” Kilcoyne said. “A lot of people think it’s just a horse walking around in circles. It’s not. It’s life changing. I can’t think of anyone who couldn’t benefit from some sort of equine therapy.”

For more information about Queen of Hearts Therapeutic Riding Center, visit their website at www.queenofheartsranch.com or call 951-734-6300.

The Community Foundation


The Community Foundation’s mission is to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy. TCF does that by raising, stewarding and distributing community assets, working toward their vision of a vibrant, generous and just region — with unlimited opportunities. In 2014, the foundation has a renewed focus on building its endowment to ensure that The Community Foundation is Here for good. For more information, contact The Community Foundation at 951-241-7777 or info@thecommunityfoundation.net.