Horse Hands Thunderbird Equine Charities

Have you ever thought of introducing your child to Equine Therapy? Well Thunderbird Charities at The Phoenix Zoo is just for you. Horse Hands has different levels of riding for all ages. Mini and Junior Horse Hands which includes a caregiver for your children ages 3-4 and 5-6. Prices for members are $120 and non-members are $150.

The first levels of riding are Levels 1-4 which are for ages 7-14. Horse Hands Level 1,This program is designed to develop safe and caring relationships between participants and horses. Participants learn basic caregiving skills such as grooming a horse and cleaning a horse’s stall. They also learn the process of preparing a horse to be ridden, which culminates with their first riding experience.

Horse Hands Level 2, This program is for those who have completed Level 1. Caregiving is continued in this level with participants learning about caring for a horse’s hooves and how to bathe a horse. Participants begin to develop riding skills that focus on basic control of a horse.

Level 3 is available for participants who have completed both Level 1 and Level 2. In this program participants will broaden their horsemanship knowledge by learning different breeds and colors of horses. As riding skills develop further, participants are taken outside the riding arena to test their skills on a trail ride.

To enroll in this program, participants must have completed Levels 1, 2 and 3. In this program participants learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy horses, common horse health issues and how to maintain a healthy horse through proper care. Each participant is assigned their own horse that they will care for throughout the series. Participants continue to develop their riding skills while being introduced to faster gaits.

 Ages 15+ is for adult riding classes.   If you have never been on a horse before, or if you are somewhat experienced with horses but would like to learn more about their behavior and caregiving, or just generally brush up on your horsemanship skills, then this program is for you. Horse Hands beginner classes helps the rider be independent and in control with maintaining a reasonably secure seat at the walk and trot through simple patterns with a saddle.

Horse Hands Novice 1 class for those who have earned the merit badges and passed the riding test for Horse Hands Riding Beginner level.  The Novice 1 rider fine tunes his or her seat positioning and control of the horse under saddle at the walk and trot. Students will perform moderately difficult patterns and will be introduced to the canter.

Horse Hands Novice 2 Horseback Riding
For those who have earned the merit badges and who have passed the riding test for Horse Hands Riding Novice 1 level.  Upon completion, the Novice 2 rider will have a solid seat and will be able to control his or her horse through complex patterns at the walk and trot.  Students will maintain a controlled canter and be able to perform basic movements at that gait. Horse Hands at the Phoenix Zoo is a unique program, including equine caregiving and horseback riding lessons, led by Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA)-accredited instructors.

Each Horse Hands program is a four-week series, where CHA equine handlers take students, based on their experience level, through the steps of meeting a variety of horse breeds, recognizing and taking care of their needs, bonding with them and learning to ride them safely.

Horse Hands is an educational, interactive and fun-filled experience connecting people of all ages to the wonder of horses and horseback riding. Classes take place at Thunderbirds Charities Equine Facility at the Phoenix Zoo and are available for children and adults! The primary focus of the Horse Hands Horseback Riding Series will be on riding, however, students will be required to know the caregiving aspects of horsemanship*.  

This program is a progression series in which students will have to test into higher levels.  A mandatory orientation will be required for all students entering into the Beginner class.  Students will enroll in 4 sessions, each session being 1 hour in length.

* participants must complete Level 1-4 before enrolling in the Riding Series

To register for Horse Hands, please contact Reservations at 602.914.4333.

To learn more about our CHA certification, visit


By Melanie


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