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Therapeutic horse riding academy opens
The first person ever to take a therapeutic horse ride at the Four Seasons Riding Academy is all smiles after getting mounted up taking a trip around the arena. - photo by Photo Contributed

TRACY – Joanne Hieb needed to find something to keep busy after she sent her kids away to college.

Sitting around the house, she thought, wasn’t going to be appealing for very long, and after years of raising children and being involved with their extracurricular activities at school, she had long ago developed a sense of being involved with things in the community.

So when her brother’s friend mentioned the therapeutic horse riding that his autistic son had been doing, and how much it had changed his life in such a short period of time, something inside of the head of the trio simultaneously clicked.

“My brother David (Colli) and Dave (Townsend) came up with the idea for our own therapeutic riding academy back in July, and since them we’ve been getting all of the paperwork taken care of and making sure everything is fixed just right,” Hieb said. “We had four horses donated, had the barns and fences donated and then went to work on the insurance portion of the paperwork.”

After hiring an instructor certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association – also known as NAHRA – all of the plans started to fall into place as volunteers offered their time to help get the program off the ground.

The non-profit organization known as the Four Seasons Therapeutic Riding Academy was born.

“It’s just amazing to see that we can do so much in such a short period of time,” Hieb said. “There’s sort of a rush that goes along with it when you see all of the plans and all of the work starting to come together. It’s something that I definitely want to put my time into.”

The organization gave their first private lesson a week ago, and is hoping that as word spreads throughout the South County that more and more people will make the short drive out to the small ranch to let their disabled children and adults take in the experience of being around and riding on a horse.

And today it’ll be more than just horses that those who come out will get a chance to be around.

As part of their grand opening celebration the group will have a handful of miniature horses, goats and even a lamb inside of a petting zoo for everybody to enjoy. All of the organization’s board members will be on-site barbecuing.

“This is something that is going to bring me a lot of joy,” Hieb said. “It’s something that’s extremely worthwhile – it’s not like raising money to pay for cheerleading uniforms, which was something I had to do when my daughters were in high school. This isn’t about helping myself at all or getting anything out of it, but about helping other people and seeing them have a great time.

“That experience alone brings me happiness, and seeing so many people who are willing to step-up and help us get this going warms my heart.”

Today’s open house will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 3795 Canal Blvd. in Tracy. For additional information about the event, or to find out more about how to schedule a lesson, visit the group’s website at or call (209) 814-3495.