Therapeutic riding pioneer honored with prestigious US award

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2021 Equus Foundation Humanitarian Award Recipient Octavia Brown with USEF President Tom O'Mara. @ picturesbyab/Adam Brennan
2021 Equus Foundation Humanitarian Award Recipient Octavia Brown with USEF President Tom O’Mara. @ picturesbyab/Adam Brennan

Octavia Brown has dedicated her life to ensuring accessibility to horses for the disabled, and the pioneer in the development and growth of therapeutic riding has received another honor for her work over more than 50 years.

Brown received the Equus Foundation Humanitarian Award at the Pegasus Awards Dinner during the US Equestrian Annual Meeting in Naples, Florida, earlier this month.

In accepting the award, Brown said her greatest joy was watching people whose careers she had influenced carry the work to new levels of excellence, “as well as to think of the many people I have known who have benefitted from that amazing partnership offered by our horses and ponies”.

“Being a pioneer in the field of equine-assisted services means that I have seen the profession grow from a grassroots group of well-meaning people to a worldwide profession serving thousands of people with disabilities and challenges of all sorts.”

A founding board member of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, now known as PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International), Brown also served as president of the Federation of Riding for the Disabled International and Horses in Education and Therapy International.

Brown has been honored with numerous accolades during her career including the New Jersey Horse Council Person of the Year in 1981, the PATH President’s Award in 1989, PATH James Brady Professional Achievement Award in 1998, and most recently the Centenary University Golden Dome Award in 2021.

2021 Equus Foundation Humanitarian Award Recipient Octavia Brown. @ picturesbyab/Adam Brennan

Holding numerous instructor certifications and qualifications, including the PATH Master Instructor and Equine Specialist, Brown founded Somerset Hills Handicapped Riding Center in 1972, now formally known as Mane Stream. In 2003 she co-founded the Therapeutic Riding Center at Centenary College and served as the Executive Director for TRAC (Therapeutic Riding at Centenary) while also a Professor of Equine Studies.

Now retired from her role at Centenary College, Brown remains an Emeritus Professor.

Centenary’s Equine Studies Department Chair Kelly Munz said Brown has had a huge impact on the lives of the children and adults in the TRAC program and was an internationally respected teacher of therapeutic riding. She recollected one of Brown’s many words of wisdom: “Along the way, I learned some important lessons. Never lose your temper. Make sure the quiet people have a voice in the discussions, and control those with too much to say, including oneself.”

Karen Bocksel, Managing Director of Center for Therapeutic Riding of the East End described Brown as “a visionary for the entire industry”.

“She has dedicated her life to improving the lives of others with the help of therapeutic equines and continues to be committed to improving the education and certification of instructors to enable best outcomes for both participants and equines.”

The Humanitarian Award was established in 2009 by the Equus Foundation and the US Equestrian Federation to honor a member of the equestrian world who has devoted considerable personal time to making the quality of life of our equine partners paramount.

Karen Bocksel, Managing Director, Center for Therapeutic Riding of the East End, left, and Kathy Alm, President, PATH Intl., right, celebrate with Octavia Brown.

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