Therapeutic riding may be a bit of a mystery to the non-horsey set. And even the participants may not realize its true benefits.
Betty Foulk, who has volunteered at the Greenwich branch of Pegasus Therapeutic Riding for three decades, said that as a volunteer, "you're working with kids that really don't know that they are learning certain skills. They just think they are have fun riding a pony, but it's so much more than that."
Pegasus provides equine-assisted activities and therapies to more than 200 children and adults with emotional, physical and cognitive disabilities. The students can learn about, ride and love the therapy horses. The program focuses on the bond between horse and rider. Children with speech problems have been known to say their first words on the back of a horse. Equine therapy also stimulates the body. A child on a moving horse is always working on posture and muscle control. The rider develops balance, control and stability. Students can overcome fears and improve their self-esteem.
Vicky Skouras, who also volunteers her time teaching disabled children how to ride, says, "Everyone leaves here with a smile on their face after they have seen their horses. We become their friends and guides. The 45 minutes that they're on their horses is a world away from, 'I can't.'"
The Greenwich branch runs out of Kelsey Farms on Lake Avenue. Pegasus was created in 1974 by a group of equestrians in Fairfield County to explore the benefits of therapeutic riding. Among other tasks, volunteers help lead the horses and spot the children during the lessons.
"The results are so big, and just to see kids' progression is simply amazing," Skouras said.For more information about volunteering for Pegasus, visit its website .
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