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Mission & Values

The mission of the Challenged Champions Equestrian Center, Inc. is to enrich and change the lives of children and adults with special needs through facilitated equine activities. Opportunities are provided through horseback riding and other horse related activities that promote physical, emotional, and mental development. Challenged Champions is a cooperative effort of dedicated individuals that includes trained personnel and community volunteers. Our vision is to enrich and change the lives of children and adults with disabilities through the extraordinary benefits of therapeutic riding and related equine assisted activites.  The horses are the bridge between the participants and their needs, creating a common bond upon which they can build and overcome.


Ottawa, Ohio
A 70’x90′ heated indoor arena allows us to offer year-round riding programs. In 2008, an outdoor arena was added to give more versatility for class activities. Recent additions include a lift chair, wheel-chair accessible restrooms and an educational classroom with viewing window to riding arena. These additions provide a clean and pleasant atmosphere and allow us to better serve our clients needs.

11913 County Road 6
Ottawa, OH

Findlay, Ohio
Our Findlay satellite facility offers therapeutic horseback riding programs for the multi-handicapped students at Van Buren School. These students are able to come and ride for 4-week sessions during the school year with their classmates as part of their adapted physical education class. During this riding time the program also offers gross motor, fine motor/coordination activities, hands on equine activities and actual riding time. This program at the satellite location has also offered us the opportunity to use the At-Risk Youth from the Hancock County Alternative Opportunity Center.  These individuals assist participants while they are riding by side walking and volunteering during their class time.  Once the special needs participants have completed their 4 week riding session, the At-Risk Youth get to come back and participate in their own riding session and hands-on workshops.


Challenged Champions Equestrian Center was established in 1997 as a non-profit charitable corporation.  Using the horse and its environment, we provide equine assisted activities for people with a variety of special needs.

According to the ADA-Ohio 2000 census statistics show that 1 in 5 residents in the United States have some sort of disability.
The use of Equine has been proven effective as recreational therapy for various disabilities including but not limited to:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autism
  • Mental Retardation
  • Down Syndrome
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Paralysis
  • Brain Injuries
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Spina Bifida
  • Sight Impairment
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Developmental delay
  • Emotional Disabilities
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Riding is particularly beneficial for students with impaired motor function.  The movement of the horse both relaxes and stimulates unused muscles, building muscle tone and improving coordination and balance.In 1999 Rising River Quarter Horses facility became the home of Challenged Champions. In 2001, Challenged Champions Equestrian Center became a Premier Accredited Center with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), which has since changed their name to PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship Intl.) Just as other professions use accreditation and licensing systems to improve the well-being of their industries, therapeutic equine professionals have a distinction of their own.

In 2007 the facility was severely devastated by an August flood.   Since much cleanup work was needed to get the facility back in working order some expansions were also needed to accommodate the increase in participants.  With help from community volunteers the results of the flood were soon behind us and we were able to add a restroom, outdoor arena, and large classroom with viewing area.

These additions have allowed us to expand in many directions.  We are now able to provide classes year round, five days per week.  The classroom has become a multi-purpose room allowing all types of social groups to hold their functions, what an opportunity for us to show off our program.

Since the beginning in 1997 we are now serving close to 300 students per year. Our horses giving over 2500 rides per year , and have expanded our services to include but not limited to Girl Scout, Boy Scouts, County school systems, Senior citizens, Service groups, County Probation Youth, Veteran’s Programming, and many more.


Challenged Champions Equestrian Center is supported by a number of dedicated people.  Both employees and volunteers work with the horses and people in the program.  Below is a list of people who work on our staff in either a part-time or full-time capacity.


  • Laura Luginbill-Executive Program Director, PATH Certified Instructor
  • Amanda Sizemore-Program Director, PATH Certified Instructor
  • Beth Meyers- PATH Certified Instructor
  • Leah Gall- PATH Certiftied Instructor
  • Kendra Wentz-Volunteer Coordinator

Our Horses & Their Stories

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” ~ Winston Churchill

Our horses are as important to us as a teacher is to a school.  Without the horse we have no program.
This is a list of our current horses and ponies being used.  We have been blessed to have had many special horses and ponies involved in our program throughout the years.  When we have to say good bye it is like losing an old friend.

  • Little Bit- 27 year old Miniature Horse owned by Rising River Quarter Horses
  • Dream- 25 year old Appaloosa anonymously donated
  • Sylvie- 21 year old pony donated by Dale and Jodi Niese
  • Willy- 20 year old Quarter Horse donated by Barb Farqusen
  • Huey- 18 year old Belgium Warmblood donated by Jacquelin Kramig
  • Smoky- 17 year old Paint donated by Lisa Wolford
  • Little Man- 17 year old Quarter Horse donated by the University of Findlay
  • Cisco- 15 year old Buckskin Paint pony purchased by Challenged Champions
  • Zimme- 9 year old Miniature Mediterranean Donkey owned by Rising River Quarter Horses
  • Barney- 10 year old Halflinger/Morgan cross donated by the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa
  • Patsy- 10 year old pony purchased by Challenged Champions
  • Banjo- 8 year old Miniature Mediterranean Donkey owned by Amanda Sizemore
  • Al – 14 year old Foundation Quarter Horse purchased by Challenged Champions
  • Cruz- 14 year old Appaloosa donated to Challenged Champions
  • Oz- 9 year old Appendix gelding donated by Malayna VanCleve
  • Magic- 22 year old Arabian gelding donated by Tom Fitzgibbon

The expense of the horse can be as much as $4,500.00 per year.  That would include grain, hay, bedding, labor, veterinary, farrier, and occupancy.

Board of Directors

  • Laura Luginbill-Executive Program Director
  • Gary Krouse-President
  • Shelly Brough-Vice President
  • Jerome Schroeder-Treasurer
  • Roni Kaufman-Secretary
  • Mark Alliman-Trustee
  • Brenda Alliman-Trustee
  • Jana Amstutz-Trustee
  • Laura Durliat-Trustee
  • Deb Gyetvai-Trustee
  • Pam Lather-Trustee
  • Greg Myers-Trustee
  • Rose Riepenhoff-Trustee
  • Maggie Ruggles-Trustee
  • Kendra Wentz-Trustee

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