Charitable Choices: Ann Thomson, President of Southlands Therapeutic Riding Society (STaRS)

Southlands Therapeutic Riding Society (STaRS) offers therapeutic riding services for Vancouver citizens of all ages. This registered, charitable organization provides services to help with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. More than that, their aim is on building confidence and creating a purpose for their riders to help them in the long term. We spoke with Ann Thomson, President of Southlands Therapeutic Riding Society (STaRS) Board of Directors to learn more about them.


Describe your charity/nonprofit in a few sentences.

STaRS was founded in 2006 by a small group of volunteers to help meet the growing demand for therapeutic riding services in Vancouver. STaRS provides therapeutic riding opportunities for children, youth and adults living with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. We operate at Southlands Heritage Farm in Vancouver, a unique location that offers an opportunity allows for young people to learn the art of riding in an inclusive environment, side by side with a typical riding school.

What problem does it solve?

The benefits of therapeutic riding offer individuals living with disabilities improvements in physical flexibility, coordination, strength, concentration, learning and independence. Our equine-facilitated wellness (EFW) program brings horses and people together for healing, personal growth and development.

When did you start/join it?

In 2016 as a volunteer, and as a Board member in January 2020.

What made you want to get involved?

My granddaughter has cerebral palsy. Therapeutic riding was an opportunity for her to combine physical therapy with a sense of independence and fun. I became convinced of the value of riding for young people like her, who have limited opportunities for sports and active therapy.

What was the situation like when you started?

STaRS was operating at Southlands Heritage Farm with 3 part-time instructors and about 25 riders. The EFW program was limited to 2 participants.

How has it changed since?

We now have 43 riders using the same facilities and a growing waiting list of 25. We have conducted EFW workshops for groups such as men living with HIV/AIDS at the Dr. Peter Centre and our individual client participation has grown to 5.


What more needs to be done?

We want to expand our ridership, but we need an additional instructor, more horses and more riding ring space.

How can our readers help?

Readers can spread the word about the value of therapeutic riding and EFW for those living with disabilities. We would appreciate donations to help us to grow. Readers can make a donation to STaRS by going to our website.

Where can we follow you?

Website | Facebook | Instagram

PAY IT FORWARD. What is an awesome local charity/nonprofit that you love?

The Centre for Ability: A Vancouver-based nonprofit that provides services in the community to people with diverse abilities. They have great leadership and programs.