Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

    Equestrian Therapy

    Anyone who has ridden a horse knows the feeling of the wind blowing on your face, being high up in the air, while the horse gallops round the ring. True horse aficionados love the feeling.

    Some of these dedicated people are a part of STEED, Special Therapeutic Education through Equestrian Development, an organization that for 34 years has been teaching disabled people the values and benefits of horseback riding.

    STEED’s current organizer, Gaye Collins, described their mission as “to share their love of horses with individuals who otherwise would never have the opportunity to ride and experience the special bond that develops between a person and a horse.”

    There are many therapeutic horseback-riding centers around but Collins believes that STEED “provides our service to our riders because we want them to experience the joy of interacting with these magnificent animals.” Like a family, these people have been working and riding together for 34 years, yet welcome newcomers all the time.

    The riders at STEED are varying in their needs. There are kids and adults with autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s, paraplegia, and other obstacles. The common thought they share is of the horses.

    These beautiful creatures have a major positive impact on the riders, who relish the chance to show off their skills. “Horses have an impact on anyone who interacts with them whether they are challenged in any way or not,” says Collins who believes horses are not judgmental and act as a great boost to self-esteem.

    One little boy, who started at seven years old, was terrified of the horses and wouldn’t go near them. As he came back each week, watched the animals and the other riders, his temperament changed and he asked to sit on a horse. He was still nervous but he soon realized that the horses were friendly and he was in capable hands. He showed great progress and now hurries past Collins to get to the ring. All the riders look forward to their weekly time in the ring with their horse.

    Horses also have a physical benefit for the physically challenged riders. “The movement of the horses stimulates unused muscles” in that it “duplicates the normal movement of walking.” Just by sitting on the horse, one can exercise his or her self while the horse does all the work.

    STEED’s horses are Molly, Mac, Bella, and the newest addition, Nosey. These therapy horses range in size and appearance. Molly is smallest and white with a smattering of black and grey streaky spots. Mac is a warm chestnut color with a dark mane. Bella is the biggest, a deep and hearty chocolate. Mac and Bella are a couple and spend their break time together. The newbie, Nosey, is a sandy beige shade who’s already learned the ropes. The horses owned by Collins and Anthony Mazzeo are the heart and soul of STEED.

    Another reason STEED is so successful is the volunteers. Horse experts and novices alike help out in many ways. Sider-walkers act as spotters and safety guides when less-experienced riders take the reins. Leaders direct the horse and rider, giving directions and helpful tips. The prep crew’s job is to brush down the horses and tack them up. The cleanup crew has to rub down the horses and pack them back into their trailers. STEED is 100% volunteer. From the teaching instructors to the legal experts, everyone is kind enough to give their time and knowledge to this organization.

    On Saturday October 22, STEED participated in the 2011 HRH Open Horse Show and Special Olympics New Jersey State Competition hosted by Horseback Riding for the Handicapped of New Jersey. Five of STEED’s riders and three horses along with their volunteers and cheerleaders flocked to Horse Park of New Jersey to watch the events unfold. “It is a tremendous undertaking to get the riders ready for the show” but the result is amazing. All STEED’s participating riders “went home with not only ribbons and medals but pride in their accomplishments.

    STEED is a 501 3(c) non-profit organization, which depends entirely on donations to function and continue helping the community. Every Sunday, Collins and Mazzeo pack up their horses and trek down from upstate New York. This special group has spring and fall sessions at Country Lee Farms in Pomona, New York for ages 7 and up. They are always looking for volunteers and are truly a great group to be involved with.

    The work being done at STEED is extremely important, and fulfilling by becoming a part of the family.

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