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HOPE THERAPY AT MOODY GARDENS. Moody Gardens is a 140-acre complex consisting of a convention center, an animal park, a water-recreation area, an enclosed rain forest, and an IMAX theater. Hope Therapy at Moody Gardens is a special facility that provides an innovative rehabilitative treatment program for children and adults. Clients include individuals with spinal cord injuries, amputation, strokes, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, emotional disturbances, and impaired vision or hearing. Rehabilitative therapies include horseback riding, animal-assisted therapy, and horticultural therapy. For rehabilitation clients that seek employment, a vocational-education program provides training.

One of several philanthropic projects of the Moody Foundation of Galveston, Hope Arena, as it was called originally, was established after a nineteen-year-old member of the Moody family suffered serious head injuries in a 1980 automobile accident. The young Moody emerged from six months in a coma in need of extensive therapy and rehabilitation. Hope Arena was designed to provide therapeutic horseback riding ("hippotherapy") for him and for others with similar neurological impairments. Beginning in January 1986, the rehabilitative riding program served almost 300 clients in its first two years. Hippotherapy, derived from the Greek work for "horse," can stretch and strengthen damaged or atrophied muscles and, over time, improve muscle tone and flexibility. Riding can also help handicapped people improve balance, body control, and coordination. For individuals confined to wheelchairs, horseback riding allows an experience of mobility and independence that is otherwise difficult to attain. The animals of Seaside Safari provide animal-assisted therapy for clients of Hope Therapy and visit local geriatric centers, crisis centers, and hospitals. Touching and relating to an animal has been shown to provide children and elderly, emotionally disturbed, or mentally retarded individuals pleasure and psychological benefit. Horticultural therapy utilizes the five greenhouses of Moody Gardens to allow clients to nurture, raise, and harvest plants.

Clients are referred to Hope Therapy by physicians, physical or occupational therapists, other clients, and rehabilitation support groups. Most clients are from Galveston or Houston, and eighty to ninety participate in the riding program each week. Therapy is usually long-term, requiring a year or more of one or two sessions a week. Hope Therapy is accredited by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. The staff includes a director of therapy, certified riding instructors, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and recreational therapists. A corps of volunteers also assists with the programs. Hope Therapy is administrated by Moody Gardens and supported by grants from the Moody Foundation and other charitable foundations, private donations, fund raising events, and client fees.


Sam Minner, et al, "Equine Therapy for Handicapped Students," The Pointer 27 (Summer 1983).

Megan Seaholm and Cheryl Ellis Vaiani


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Megan Seaholm and Cheryl Ellis Vaiani, "HOPE THERAPY AT MOODY GARDENS," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed March 26, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.