Although horseback riding may not sound like something you would find in New York City, there are many horse farms located throughout the city. GallopNYC offers lessons for veterans and those with disabilities. Horseback riding is their therapy.
Olivia Diver visits GallopNYC in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens. The horse farm is located just off busy Linden Boulevard. It's hidden behind shrubbery. Many horses are being rescued.
They become your friend. You can talk to them, pet them, and even hug them. "It's almost like they're more than just animals you ride. They're your friend, your buddy," said the 16-year old about the horses.
Diver has been riding horses for just a few months but already feels the benefits. She said, "It helped my confidence and made me less timid and more in control." It helped me get out of my shell, my shadow. It made me feel secure, calm, and happy. She stated that trying new things showed her she could do other things.
GallopNYC executive director James Wilson says that horses can be used in many therapeutic ways.
He explained to CBS News that the horse views the world the same way as someone with PTS (posttraumatic stress disorder). It is very anxious and guarded. A person with PTS can see the world together, and they can take care of one another. For veterans or people who have suffered trauma, time spent with horses can be very therapeutic.
Horses are also able to help people with disabilities. Wilson stated, "My favorite story was this teenager who had so little core power that his mother had had to swim with him in the tub." After two years of therapy riding, he was strong enough to be able to get in the shower on his own. This young man was able get incredible agency just by riding a horse. That's amazing to me and that's why we're here.
Wilson stated that riding a horse can be a great option for people in wheelchairs. He said, "The motion, movement of the horse will loosen muscles that might not be so tight." "And movement stimulates other body parts, muscles you might not use," he said.
GallopNYC currently has approximately 1,000 people waiting for lessons. However, GallopNYC prioritizes veterans and people with disabilities. We believe everyone benefits from riding a horse. So our answer to your question is "You want to ride horses?" Wilson agreed.
Lessons cost $55, but nonprofit fundraises are available to cover or lower the costs for customers who might need assistance.
Wilson hails from Texas, and he misses horses when he moves to New York. GallopNYC was the perfect place for him to start his career. Many of the volunteers, he said, are horse people who love to keep their passion alive even though they live in cities. They turn others into horsepeople, which can lead to a change in their lives.
"Almost every year, we have a rider classified as nonverbal who speaks their first word. It's amazing when this happens, because a child, whom everyone said, "Don't worry, it's nonverbal. They just haven't yet spoken." Their first word is often trot on. A trot is slightly faster so they say, "Let's go! I want to trot!"