NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Pamela Skinner loved riding her horse around the woods of Boxford as a child and into adulthood.

It was one of her greatest pleasures in life, only surpassed by the work she does as an instructor at the therapeutic riding center Windrush Farm in North Andover.

After 20 years, Skinner has decided to retire from her post, leaving behind what she sees as a vibrant and evolving riding center that is looking to expand.

But Skinner said though she is leaving formally, she knows she won’t be able to stay away from the farm and the horses for long.

“There is such a bond created between human and horse – there’s really nothing like it,” she said.

While Skinner is retiring, Windrush Farm’s new chief executive is eager to bring plans to expand the riding center’s offerings to fruition.

Windrush Farm was founded in 1964, when Marjorie Kittredge invited students from a school for children with special needs to ride horses at her farm spanning 35 acres in North Andover and Boxford. Officially called Windrush Farm Therapeutic Equitation Inc., the farm became one of the first therapeutic riding centers in the country.

“She was really a pioneer,” said Skinner, who admitted that she was intimidated by Kittredge as a young woman.

Skinner’s husband was doing contract work on the farm in the 1990s and encouraged her to stop by to chat with Kittredge.

“I honestly haven’t left since that first time,” she said.

Skinner started as a volunteer around the farm. It wasn’t until she had a close encounter with disability herself that she realized she wanted to do more.

Skinner was admitted to the hospital for meningitis, and she said doctors weren’t sure she would survive. And there was a possibility that she would lose her arms and legs.

“Sitting in that bed, alone, you have a lot of time to think,” she said. And when she got up and walked out of the hospital, Skinner said she knew she wanted to help those with disabilities feel whole again.

“So much has changed since I first started,” she said. “But the feeling of seeing a nonverbal child start giving their horse commands, saying “walk on” … or having parents tell me their child was going through movements of the lesson at the dinner table, that feeling will always be incredible.”

Skinner said most instructors and training staff today have degrees in physical or occupational therapy. All of them are certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship.

“I don’t have any formal degrees,” she said. “But I’ve got the experience, and the newer staff often come to me for that.”

In addition to the difference in training across generations of Windrush Farm staffers, the farm has begun to branch out beyond therapy for traditional special-needs groups.

“We have so many new programs here that have such opportunity to serve the community,” said CEO Janet Nittman, who joined the farm in October.

Windrush now runs a program with at-risk youths in Lawrence, called Giddy Up and Grow, where children learn to care for and ride a horse, then write about their experiences.

There’s a bereavement program where groups of people who have lost someone can come and connect with the horses and each other.

And there’s a program for veterans to lead a horse through an obstacle course.

As Skinner finishes her chapter at Windrush, she said she hopes those programs continue to grow.