The non-profit 501(c) (3) J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center, located in San Juan Capistrano,
began in 1978 as The Orange County Riding Center. It was founded by Nancy and Derek Lewis
for their son Michael who was born with cerebral palsy. Social worker and equestrienne Fran Joswick
was the Center’s first in structor and executive director and the Center was later renamed
as the Fran Joswick Therapeutic Riding Center. In 2001, the J.F. Shea Co., Inc. donated seven
acres of land for a permanent facility and the Center was renamed in honor of The Shea
Company’s generous gift.
The modest beginnings of The Shea Center have yielded an organization that has become one of
the top equine assisted activities centers in the world. The Shea Center now serves over 600 riders
each year utilizing 20 horses and the assistance of more than 600 community volunteers.
Located on seven acres in historic San Juan Capistrano, The Shea Center serves people with
disabilities with a variety of programs that include physical, occupational and speech therapy that
can benefit from therapeutic horseback riding and activities around the horse. Riders must be at
least two years old and evaluated by one of the staff physical therapists to determine an
appropriate treatment program. Over 60 distinct disabilities are seen at The Shea Center
including cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, and traumatic brain injury.
Therapeutic riding involves a trusted partnership between a therapy professional or
certified instructor, trained volunteers, and one of The Shea Center’s program horses.
A horse’s three-dimensional walk closely replicates the movement of a human walk, helping
stimulate the rider’s muscle coordination, strength, posture, and balance. The special bond that
develops between horse and rider also produces emotional and psychological benefits unique to
Accredited at the “premier” level by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship
International (PATH) The Shea Center is internationally recognized for its excellence in
therapeutic programs. It is also is a therapeutic training facility drawing interns and students from
around the world.