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HorseAbility Creating Miracle Moments Using Therapeutic Horse Riding

Horses have been an essential part of our American lifestyle since the early colonizing days of our ancestors.

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Horses have been an essential part of our American lifestyle since the early colonizing days of our ancestors.

Now, through Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding programs taking place in the riding rings of HorseAbility, horses are proving to be even more rewarding and versatile than ever. These animals are now benefitting children with special needs emotionally, physically, spiritually and cognitively.

The life-changing program started in 1993 after Katie McGowan, HorseAbility’s Executive Director and Creator, witnessed a child with cerebral palsy improve immensely through the therapeutic use of Bandit, HorseAbility’s first horse.

This first miracle moment was the first of many for McGowan and paved way for hundreds of others to receive various therapies through the Long Island non-profit organization’s many different therapeutic riding programs.

But the miracle moments didn’t stop there.

“I received a beautiful letter from a parent of a terrific student of mine that (had been) diagnosed with mental illness and also was suicidal.  Being around the horses gave new life to this young lady,” McGowan .  “Her mom had written a beautiful letter thanking HorseAbility and all that the horses have done for her daughter.  She is currently out of “crisis” and the family feels as though they have their daughter back.”

Stories like these are the driving motivation for McGowan and her core staff of seven directors and managers.  All of these success stories take place at HorseAbility’s main facilities on the campus of SUNY College at Old Westbury.  The 20-acres of facilities include 42 stalls, 14 beautiful turn-out paddocks, a quarter-mile track, and three riding rings for the many programs offered. Half of the stalls are currently in the process of being relocated to a gorgeous, brick stable that was originally built in 1912.

Every one of the many horses housed in these stalls and involved in the programs each possess their own unique personalities and therapeutic benefits to the HorseAbility students. Annie Follansbee, the Program Director, says the best part about being involved in the organization is seeing riders develop personal and loving relationships with their individual horses.

“I’d say the best part has to be the ability of repurposing horses with a new therapeutic career and sharing in the relationships that the clients develop with the horses,” says Follansbee.

At the end of the day, however, HorseAbility’s main goal is to keep producing the miracle moments that started the organization in the first place.

“I have experienced so many miracle moments,” McGowan says.  “I have seen someone take their first steps after riding. I have heard someone speak their first words after riding  It’s all about helping these kids reach their personal goals both on horse and off our horses.”

For more information about HorseAbility, be sure to visit their website, "Like" their Facebook Page, or Follow them on Twitter. To find out how you can get involved, please call 516-333-6151, or email