PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University is temporarily suspending the Palouse Area Therapeutic Horsemanship program program for 2018.

PATH’s mission is to provide recreational, therapeutic horseback riding for people with physical or emotional challenges. It is a premier accredited center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) and has served the Palouse region since 1979.

The suspension comes as the program addresses a series of challenges. It recently has experienced difficulties maintaining a herd populated with horses safe enough for the physically and emotionally challenged to ride. There also is a short-term shortage of certified instructors. And finally, the off-campus facility where the program is conducted is coming under greater federally regulated animal care and use scrutiny.

“Mr. and Mrs. Orvil Sears have boarded the PATH horses and rented their indoor arena to the PATH program for the past 17 years, and we are very grateful to them,” said Bryan Slinker, dean of WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the campus unit that administers the program. “Unfortunately as animal care and use regulations continue to evolve, it becomes more difficult for a private owner to keep up with unfunded, yet necessary, changes.”

“I really dislike having to suspend the PATH program,” explained Slinker. “This program has done nothing but positive things for the community over the years, and the community has responded with financial support from a number of community-service organizations and individual donors.

“PATH benefits not only the riders and their families, but also the many community members and the WSU students and staff who volunteer their time and talents to make it successful. To all, we offer our sincerest thanks.”

Dr. Slinker said the college is seeking upwards of $1 million in private gifts to build an indoor arena on campus. The funding process that began in early 2017 as the program’s future was evaluated with respect to better meeting the needs of the program and the horses.



  • Sue Jacobson, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, People-Pet Partnership/PATH coordinator 509-335-7347, sjacobson@vetmed.wsu.edu