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Meet Mary Hadsall of Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship in North Scottsdale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Hadsall.

Mary, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My first visit to Camelot in 2002 was to tour the facility and meet with the program’s founder, Eileen Szychowski. I had been teaching therapeutic horseback riding lessons at a program in Utah and had just moved to Scottsdale with my own dreams of opening a riding program. I knew I wanted to continue my work in the therapeutic riding industry, but I wanted to teach my students more than just how to ride. I wanted there to be more focus on all the aspects of horsemanship. I also wanted to slow things down and give students a chance to master skills themselves. I knew how to teach, what I didn’t know was how to start a non-profit. I was hoping for a point in the right direction from Ms. Szychowski.

When I came through the gate of the ranch that fateful day I had no idea that I would need to look no further. Unbeknownst to me, Eileen had begun her plan of succession; I had the great pleasure and good fortune to mentor under her and took the over reins of the ranch when she retired in 2004.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Camelot was celebrating their 20th anniversary when I arrived. I came into a program that was built on a solid foundation and was financially healthy. The transition went very smoothly.

We are unique as a business model. Since inception Camelot has never charged participants or their families for services, nor do we receive state or government funding. We have operated on a “pay as you go” business practice, which means that capital is raised before breaking ground on any facility improvements or purchasing equipment. This goes back to the early days when we operated out of rental quarters and were raising the capital to buy the land and build the facility where we sit today. We proudly boast that we have never paid so much as a penny in interest. During the years following the economic crunch in the late 2000’s we did indeed see some financial challenges. However, because we are debt free our financial resources go further and I work hard to be a good steward to our financial supporters and donors.

Today, Camelot is serving more riders on a weekly basis than the day that I arrived, and we have added beautiful improvements to our property. Now, in addition to our fully wheelchair accessible administrative building, barn and tack room, we have covered our 100′ x 200′ arena, we have added an outdoor 20 x 40 meter dressage arena, an 85′ wheelchair accessible labyrinth, and three spacious outdoor turnouts for the therapy horses. Currently we are expanding our turnout space and in early 2018 we will be replacing our eight stall barn.

Please tell us about Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship.
Camelot is a one of a kind therapeutic horseback riding academy that specializes in serving riders with physical disabilities. We are a curriculum based riding program serving students seven years old and up – there is no age limit.

Riders enrolled in the program will be taught all aspects of horsemanship. They will learn about safe horse handling from the ground as well as astride. Our curriculum covers topics such as breeds, colors and markings, horses through the ages, we will study how horses behave, and basic stable management. We offer English and western riding disciplines and cart driving. We are the program for the horse enthusiast that has interest in learning how to ride as well as the individual that possibly longs for horse ownership.

While we do not charge students for our services, we are not a free ride. On the contrary. In exchange for the services students receive they are expected to give back to the community that has so generously supported their efforts. This can be achieved through volunteerism, either at the Camelot ranch or through various other programs and businesses in the local community. It is through giving back that students discover their true potential.

Camelot’s mission is to improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through programs of horsemanship and outdoor education that develop self-worth, independence and active participation in the community.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Most of my favorite memories of my childhood include horses. After my father got off work, he would pick up my sister and me from the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base stable where we boarded our horses. On one particular afternoon I remember being late returning to the stables from a trail ride. Rather than wait at the stables he decided to ride out on Rocket to meet me. It was wonderful to see him riding and a joy beyond measure to ride with him!

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Image Credit:

Mary Hadsall, Ann Ezzell

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