Challenged Champions brings joy, confidence, healing


By Staff Reports - [email protected]



Haley Morman brushes her therapy horse, Ted, last month at Challenged Champions in Ottawa.

Haley Morman brushes her therapy horse, Ted, last month at Challenged Champions in Ottawa.


Levi Douglas enjoys a ride on Peanut at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa, with volunteers Emily Altman, left, and Judy Miller, right.

Levi Douglas enjoys a ride on Peanut at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa, with volunteers Emily Altman, left, and Judy Miller, right.


Barney Beckman leads Rocky around the arena with Belle Erford in the saddle at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa.


Emily McBride | The Lima News

Program Director Amanda Sizemore from Challenged Champions Equestrian Center uses a lift to help Haley Morman get in the saddle on therapy horse Ted last month.


Emily McBride | The Lima News Emily McBride | The Lima News

Caryn Johnson leads Haley Morman around the arena on the therapy horse, Ted. Clients like Moreman can engage in a range of therapy sessions at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa.


Emily McBride | The Lima News Emily McBride | The Lima News

Amanda Sizemore, program director at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center, stands in the center of the arena and gives riders instructions on Wednesday. She has been with Challenged Champions in Ottawa for 10 years.


Emily McBride | The Lima News

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OTTAWA — For 25 years, more than a dozen dedicated professionals and volunteers have been helping people of all ages overcome varied medical conditions and diseases with the help of one of mankind’s oldest animal friends, horses.

First opened in 1997, Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa has been thriving in its mission to help locals heal, said Amanda Sizemore, program director at the center.

The center’s founder, Laura Luginbill, is now the executive director, overseeing the staff of three full-time employees, six part-time employees and a long list of volunteers and others such as physical therapists, counselors, speech therapists and others who assist clients during their equine therapy sessions.

Sizemore said any client or patient age 3 years old and older can participate in the therapy sessions. The main conditions equine therapy clients are diagnosed with include multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, Down Syndrome and a range of conditions on the autism spectrum.

“Any children or adults with special needs (are welcome), and that encompasses a lot of conditions,” Sizemore said. “A lot of younger riders are on the autism spectrum or have Down Syndrome. We do have a few veterans that come out, too.”

For a fee, clients can come to the center and engage in a variety of therapeutic activities all centered around horses, Sizemore explained. Therapies range from riding horses to grooming horses, being pulled in a horse-drawn buggy or unique activities such as body-painting horses, she added.

“We have 19 horses that live on the farm, all different kinds, but the majority of them are quarter horses. We have horses of all different shapes and sizes to accommodate various clients,” she said.

The center does have one miniature horse, named Little Bit, that is used for certain clients who may be afraid of a full-sized horse, Sizemore explained. Little Bit was donated to the center, and a veterinarian estimated she is 30 years old.

The center is fully certified by the international organization Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. It serves 15 to 28 clients per day, Monday through Friday. The center is closed on weekends and charges $20 per hour for horse sessions and $30 an hour for one-on-one sessions with varied therapists.

Sizemore said safety of clients is paramount, and each person who comes to the center must have a physician’s form that describes their medical conditions and needs. There are no more than four clients per class and a “side walker,” a person who walks alongside the horse and client, is always on hand.

“There are always at least two team members (per client), and that alleviates the nervousness,” she added. “We have riders that need assistance, and some are afraid of the full range of (horse) gaits. Nine times out of 10, everybody is so trusting (of the horses), but it does take a whole community to make it work.”

With clients ranging from young children with varied disabilities to adults with post traumatic stress disorder, Sizemore said the best part of the center is helping those who come heal, develop confidence and merely have a joyful experience.

“It is neat to see people accomplish their goals,” Sizemore said. “One of the coolest things is when they first get on the horse, and the horse takes the first few steps and it moves… that look on (client’s) faces is special.”

For more information on Challenged Champions Equestrian Center, visit challengedchampions.com or call 419-456-3449.

Haley Morman brushes her therapy horse, Ted, last month at Challenged Champions in Ottawa.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/03/web1_031A1962.jpgHaley Morman brushes her therapy horse, Ted, last month at Challenged Champions in Ottawa.
Levi Douglas enjoys a ride on Peanut at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa, with volunteers Emily Altman, left, and Judy Miller, right.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/03/web1_031A1998.jpgLevi Douglas enjoys a ride on Peanut at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa, with volunteers Emily Altman, left, and Judy Miller, right.
Barney Beckman leads Rocky around the arena with Belle Erford in the saddle at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/03/web1_031A2001.jpgBarney Beckman leads Rocky around the arena with Belle Erford in the saddle at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa. Emily McBride | The Lima News
Program Director Amanda Sizemore from Challenged Champions Equestrian Center uses a lift to help Haley Morman get in the saddle on therapy horse Ted last month.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/03/web1_031A2011.jpgProgram Director Amanda Sizemore from Challenged Champions Equestrian Center uses a lift to help Haley Morman get in the saddle on therapy horse Ted last month. Emily McBride | The Lima News Emily McBride | The Lima News
Caryn Johnson leads Haley Morman around the arena on the therapy horse, Ted. Clients like Moreman can engage in a range of therapy sessions at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/03/web1_031A2048.jpgCaryn Johnson leads Haley Morman around the arena on the therapy horse, Ted. Clients like Moreman can engage in a range of therapy sessions at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in Ottawa. Emily McBride | The Lima News Emily McBride | The Lima News
Amanda Sizemore, program director at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center, stands in the center of the arena and gives riders instructions on Wednesday. She has been with Challenged Champions in Ottawa for 10 years.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/03/web1_031A2069.jpgAmanda Sizemore, program director at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center, stands in the center of the arena and gives riders instructions on Wednesday. She has been with Challenged Champions in Ottawa for 10 years. Emily McBride | The Lima News

By Staff Reports

[email protected]

CELEBRATING OUR SPIRIT

Celebrating Our Spirit celebrates small organizations, showcasing examples where the little guys are accomplishing big things. Read more stories online at LimaOhio.com/tag/spirit.

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