Helping ALS Patients

Hunkapi Programs, an equine therapy 10-acre farm located in the heart of Scottsdale, announced it has recently been awarded a grant of $135,384 from the Gila River Indian Community to provide services to patients living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Above: Hunkapi Farms, in conjunction with Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, will offer equine therapy to study patients living with ALS.  

The grant, which will fund the program for three years, will also serve to cover the cost of a quality of life study that Hunkapi will work on in conjunction with Mayo Clinic Scottsdale.

“Our main goal through this grant is to offer people diagnosed with ALS the chance to partake in activities that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to with the disease,” says Terra Schaad, executive director of Hunkapi. “By giving them a chance to interact with our animals and even ride the horses, we’re offering them a chance to move in ways their bodies do not let them anymore. We’re so grateful to Gila River Indian Community for allowing us to make this happen.”

Horseback riding activities encourage stretching and strengthening of underused or underdeveloped muscles, improved posture and coordination, help develop gross and fine motor skills, increase the rider’s awareness of their body, and increase their range of motion. In addition, participants will increase their self-esteem and self-confidence, learn problem-solving skills, and increase their ability to focus and stay on task.

Above: Hunkapi’s Founder and Executive Director Terra Schaad.

Mayo Clinic Scottsdale has pledged to carefully screen and refer only those who have been recently diagnosed and work closely with the ALS Association Arizona Chapter to monitor progress of all the patients enrolled in the study. In addition, Mayo Clinic has produced an evaluation design overlay which will systematically collect and analyze data to determine the extent to which quality of life has indeed been enhanced and improved for their patients.

“Having worked with Hunkapi over the past two years, we are a proud supporter of the farm’s incredible programs,” says Taryn Norley, President and CEO of the ALS Association Arizona Chapter. “We have built a wonderful collaborative partnership taking people living with ALS horseback riding. We appreciate the expertise and safety that Terra, her staff and volunteers provide for our patients.”

The program is set to begin mid-2021. A total of 72 patients will participate over the three-year span. The grant will also fund group therapy and other services for survivors of domestic violence.

Above: The programs at Hunkapi Farms serve participants from diverse backgrounds, abilities and ages.


“The most important and unique aspect of horseback riding is the relationship between the rider and the horse,” explains Founder and Executive Director Terra Schaad. “I firmly believe that it’s impossible to interact with a horse and walk away unchanged.” 

The farm’s name HUNKAPI is derived from the Lakota Native American tribe meaning we are all related. Focusing on this often-neglected aspect in all of its equine-centered programming, HULKAPI Farms aims to use the bond between horse and human as a catalyst for positive growth in the lives of its participants. 

The program participants come from diverse backgrounds, abilities and ages, from as young as 3 years through adulthood. Serving clients with a wide range of diagnoses include, but not limited to: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Emotional Disorder, Addiction Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Helpful for developing mutual respect and solidarity is Hunkapi’s Team Building Program. “In just three hours the farm’s trained facilitators and four-legged business coaches can create ah-ha moments, shift dynamics, and help to shape positive new behaviors and concrete change in the workplace,” shares Schaad. And in January 2019, the First Responder program was initiated, which provides equine somatic experiencing to first responders looking for tools to reduce their stress.

Programs at Hunkapi Farms are led by a staff of Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH)-certified Instructors, therapists and teams of experienced volunteers.

To keep up to date with farm events, follow the organization on Facebook and Instagram.

For more information about Hunkapi Programs, visit