Member Spotlight: Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding (STAR)

Last week, I got the chance to visit Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding (STAR)’s Lenoir City location, and the time I spent there was so inspiring! I was taken through the facility and straight to see the miniature horses and donkeys. As the animals were grazing for lunch, the staff shared how the animals are taken into assisted living homes to interact with the residents through their Minis in Motion program. They bring smiles and memories, humor and warmth to their important job of adding to joy to the residents’ lives. I was then taken to meet other members of the STAR staff, who shared more with me about the valuable work done at STAR.

Founded in 1987 by Lynn Petr, STAR has been serving East Tennessee for 32 years. STAR is a 501(c)3 organization and holds premier accreditation from the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). They offer Therapeutic Riding and Equine Assisted Learning to people from four years old to seniors with a variety of mental, physical, and educational challenges. Learn more about STAR’s history.

You may not know that STAR has two locations!  The original location and main office are in Lenoir City, and a newer site was built in South Knoxville in 2016. Staffed by talented professionals and kind and gentle horses, both sites offer similar programming in two very different settings. STAR’s Director of Services, Melissa Abbey, said that her favorite thing about working for STAR is the endless variety: “I love that I get to work with minis, full-size horses, and ponies doing riding, ground driving, nursing home visits, and field trips.” Learn more about STAR’s programs.

This fall, STAR is beginning a program for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and their caregivers. They are able to offer this special program thanks to a grant from the Pat Summitt foundation.

To learn more about STAR, to donate, or to sign up to be a volunteer, visit You can also follow STAR on Facebook.