Designed with desire


Used with Permission by Patricia Bishop

Patricia Bishop speaking at SPURS 2022 Fall Equestrian Special Olympics.

Elana Bishop, Staff Writer

In 1991, my grandparents, Patricia and Jim Bishop, felt inspired by a video sent from their friend showing a program in Naples, Florida that provided equine-assisted therapy for people of all ages with disabilities. Patricia recognized their aspiration to help those with disabilities and felt a deep connection to the program. 

“My younger sister was diagnosed with polio when she was only one year old. She has been an inspiration to me for years, she’s never let anything keep her from achieving her goals,” said Patricia. “So, in 1991, I decided that we could use our horses to do that same thing.” 

Patricia and Jim invested countless hours and months planning and preparing to get their vision approved by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH), which accredits therapeutic riding programs across the country. As well as spending effort on approving their vision, Patricia herself became a certified instructor. 

“I had to go to Colorado Springs for training for a whole month. That was very intense,” said Patricia. “Not only was I trained on how to run the business, but how to manage volunteers, the horses and who to provide services to. There was a lot involved.” 

In 1992, SPURS (Special People Using Riding Skills) was founded. In the first year, SPURS only had around 20 riders. These riders came from multiple different institutions, such as The South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (SDSBVI), Special Education Departments from schools, therapy departments at Hospitals, Lutheran Social Services and the South Dakota Developmental Center (SDDC).

“I had recruited some wonderful volunteers to get started and the first year went really well,” said Patricia.

By the next Fall and Spring Programs, SPURS was serving around 60 to 70 riders a week and acquired several more horses of different sizes and training. The organization kept growing and gaining community attention. Although, the third year of SPURS got rained out in the spring. 

“It was just a mess. I went to my board of directors and said that we need to have an indoor facility if this is going to be a viable program. And they agreed. So, we launched a capital fund drive to raise about a half of a million [dollars],” said Patricia.

When Patricia and Jim started the Capital Fund drive, they questioned who they were going to ask for help. But that was not an applicable question at all. The community was aware of their mission to help and jumped in with full support.

“A couple of my former students who owned the McDonald’s in Aberdeen gave us a check for $10,000 to get started… Another friend of ours donated a frame Cabin from Richmond lake and paid to have it moved on the property… We got it set up to use for the new facility in the fall of 1996,” said Patricia.

SPURS is still up and running and serves over 150 riders a week, hosts an occasional Special Olympics and helps out with different events around the community. In fact, they just celebrated their 30th anniversary. For more information on SPURS, go to

Patricia reached out to an artist, Mary Gorder Groth, to portray a commissioned piece of artwork. The piece was a pencil drawing of Patricia and her sister on a horse, it was called Angels Among Us. She wrote a poem to go with the drawing and anyone who gave a certain amount to the Capital Fund Drive received a copy of the print.

“I had the original until a couple of years ago when I donated it back to SPURS. They now have it hanging out in their entry into the arena. My sister was SPURS inspiration and she continues to inspire people. I was very honored to be involved in getting this started and to continue to support it,” said Patricia.