Sunshine Therapeutic Riding Center | Story

Zach and Katja Summerlin’s lives changed forever when their son Aiden, now 3, was diagnosed with Trisomy 21. After Aiden was born, Katja had an epiphany. She realized that Garland County doesn’t have any HIPPOPTHERAPY programs, that there was a large population, including Aiden, who could benefit from such a program, and that they owned a horse farm that could house one. She thought, ‘If not us, then who?’

Katja combined her desire to create new opportunities for growth and learning for Aiden with her life-long passion for horses and came up with the idea for STRC. Starting this center is their calling.

“We believe that horses can change lives and help achieve goals never thought possible.”


Katja Summerlin


Katja was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland. She graduated from college in 1996 with a degree in Business and Administration. Over the years, Katja has worked as an executive assistant for international companies in trade and marketing, children’s book publishing, and finance and private equity in Zurich.  She has experience in office management, international event and travel planning, marketing, print production, and project management. She is a certified interior design color consultant and has completed numerous commercial and residential projects.

Horses have been a Katja s life long passion. She has 25 years of experience with horses, which includes guiding wilderness horse pack trips, cattle ranch work, natural horsemanship, dressage, show tricks, and equine therapy programs.

She and her husband Zach have two children, Sophia, 8, and Aiden, 3. They relocated from Switzerland in 2011 and live on their horse farm in Hot Springs since.

Zach Summerlin


Born and raised in Oklahoma, Zach worked on luxury cruise ships as a tour guide in Alaska, British Columbia, Napa Valley and Baja California. He graduated from University of Northern Arizona with a major in Parks and Recreation in 2007.

Zach has experience in law enforcement in front country and back country settings, emergency medical services, search and rescue, river management, outdoor recreation management, resource management and wildlife management. He demonstrated strong public relations and communication skills while providing detailed accurate information to public, local landowners, researchers and federal, state and county agencies.

He currently works as a Federal Law Enforcement Park Ranger for Hot Springs National Park.

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