A local riding organization that helps children with autism and disabilities is looking for volunteers so that it can expand its service into Pelham Bay Park.
Gallop NYC teaches riders, children with developmental disabilities, especially autism, to ride horses, according to the non-profit’s James Wilson, director of operations.
The organization has had a program at the Bronx Equestrian Center in Pelham Bay Park since fall 2015, and is now seeking volunteers for Monday through Friday sessions, he said.
They also offer therapeutic riding sessions for veterans, he added.
The volunteers walk alongside the horses and act as guides for the children, veterans or members of other groups as the riders learn to to take control of the animal.
In a nutshell, since the horse provides all input for the rider, and people diagnosed with autism often have trouble focusing their mind, riding a horse is therapeutic, said Wilson.
Wilson added that focusing their attention solely on the horse is especially therapeutic for children with developmental disabilities, though he stressed that he is not a trained medical professional.
Working with developmental disabled children or veterans who may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder –gives riders a sense that they are in control.
The riding program is not free, with a group of sessions typically having fees, but no one is turned down because of the cost, stated Wilson.
He added there is a very long waiting list for Gallop NYC programs throughout the city.
“A standard session costs $500, but we are able to offer scholarships to riders that qualify and request aide,” he stated. “In fact, over 80% of our riders have at least some type of scholarship.”
Gallop NYC also solicits donations for its ten-week riding program for children and veterans, and those can be made at dev.gallo
“The children and their parents enjoy the program, he said, “They see the benefit in riding and they don’t want to quit.”
Gallop NYC also offers programming in the Riverdale Equestrian Center in Van Cortlandt Park, said Wilson.
Lizbeth Gonzalez, the president of the Friends of Pelham Bay Park, alerted the Bronx Times of the efforts to recruit volunteers by Gallop NYC.
She said that she too has experienced the therapeutic aspects of riding a horse, and said that it was helpful for veterans.
Just the act of riding enhances an individual’s physical balance and promotes self-confidence, stated Gonzalez.
“In some instances, therapeutic riders have even improved their communication skills,” she stated. “For some veterans, it has helped to restore their trust in humanity.”
“Through the simple act of walking alongside the horse and rider, a volunteer becomes an intrinsic part of the therapeutic team that is ‘present’ in that rider’s journey,” stated Gonzalez. “It is a powerful and rewarding experience.”