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Michael B. Richardson <>

Michael has always been actively involved with horses. In his youth and late teens, he was a competitive rider in the disciplines of jumping and hunting. Michael was also heavily involved with Pony Club. Outside the show arena, horses were a recreational outlet for the Richardson family and fox hunting was a regular group activity. Growing up in this equine culture offered the perfect opportunity for
Michael to nurture his natural talents and competitive spirit.  His lifestyle also fostered a life long passion for both horses and their abilities.  The young equestrian would use this passion to turn what most would consider a very negative life change into a very positive one, when in 1986, a Jeep rollover accident almost ended Michael's life and left him a paraplegic.

From the beginning, Michael decided that he would not let his injury define his world. When his therapist approved a therapeutic horseback-riding session just five weeks after his accident, Michael accepted enthusiastically. That first ride was just what he needed to steel his determination to lead an active, optimistic life. It would also be the event that eventually carried him back to the horse as his life's pursuit, although he did leave horses behind for a period of time to pursue Paralympic-level wheelchair racing.

Although racing fed Michael's competitive side, his search to fulfill his spiritual path kept leading back to the horse. It was during his training for the Paralympic trials that Michael stumbled onto another therapeutic riding program. The Easy Riders, a program based in Birmingham, Alabama, drew Michael's attention first out of curiosity. It wasn't long, however, until he found himself working with the group as both a volunteer and then an instructor. Another piece of his future fell into place when he discovered he had a deep desire to share his knowledge with others through instruction. He also served on the organization's board of directors.

As horses slowly began to become a big part of Michael's life once again, he found himself considering a future focused on them, and eventually enrolled in the Equine Studies Program at Parkland College in Illinois. There he met Dr. Gayla Sargent, Parkland’s Business and Ag-Industries Department Chair. Sargent not only served in an advisory role for Michael, but found the time to take a personal involvement in his career path. She gave Michael a three-year-old Arabian gelding and this one-on-one interaction both inspired Michael and renewed his confidence. Sargent also was instrumental in encouraging Michael to share his gift for horsemanship with others as well as become more involved with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA).

Through his affiliation with Parkland, Michael also met Dr. Dean Scroggins, an Illinois veterinarian whose knowledge of equine psychology and biomechanics would have a solid impact on the development of Michael's horsemanship skills long into the future.  With Sargent’s and Scroggins’ guidance and the help of his Arabian gelding, Michael soon discovered he needed to radically amend the way he had learned to approach horses before his accident. Almost everything about the way Michael handled horses changed after his injury, from the way he led a horse to the way he gave cues when riding. His saddle posed a special problem—it had to be supportive enough to allow Michael to ride independently, but not restrict his movement and ability to communicate through his seat. Alongside his friend Irby Parker, Michael worked on engineering a prototype saddle that fulfilled his needs. The final product took over two years to develop.

The biggest change in Michael's horsemanship, however, was in his attitude toward training the horse.  "When I was able-bodied, I could depend on my strength to accomplish things I should have been accomplishing through training. My injury prevents me from using this short cut," says Michael. "Now I have to think through problems from both my standpoint and from the horse's standpoint and then patiently find the best way for both of us to accomplish goals without the use of force."

Tiffany Richardson

Tiffany is a Graduate A Pony Clubber from the Heart of Illinois Pony Club. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 1997 with a Bachelor's Degree in Business and in 1994 from Parkland College located in Champaign, Illinois with an Associate's Degree in Equine Management. This is where Tiffany and Michael first met and their life long friendship began, both of them sharing the belief that horses respond best to positive, non-threatening communication and training.

As a youth, Tiffany first was initially involved with the Pony Club when she was sixteen. She received her B rating in the summer of 1993. The summer of 1994, she received her HA and A ratings a week apart and then graduated as an A Pony Clubber that winter. While attending school, she managed a horse farm in Springfield, Illinois. She has continued her involvement with Pony Club by giving lessons, doing clinics & ratings and working at rallies as a horse management judge.

After graduating from the University of Illinois, she relocated to Texas to begin a partnership with Michael at the Connection Equestrian Center working with horses with anxiety and traumatic issues. Michael and Tiffany have campaigned several young horses which are now strong competitors for other riders. She currently resides in Hico, Texas where she and Michael work with horses and riders, establishing relationship and understanding through enhancing communication skills.

Michael B. Richardson

Michael and "Goose" working in the dressage arena.

Michael helps the horses he trains build the confidence they will need throughout their lives.

Groundwork is an essential part of the program.

Reward and reinforcement with compassion.

Michael & his longtime demo horse "Bubba"

Tiffany Richardson

Tiffany and Michael successfully prepare and campaign eventing horses.

Tiffany and Andy working on the flat.

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