By Matt St. Jean NORTH CHITTENANGO, N.Y. (NCC News) – Tucked away nearly 20 miles away from Syracuse is a horse farm, home to a program which aims to change the lives of people with mental and physical disabilities.
ARISE at the Farm started in 1997 with a single horse. Over the past 20 years under the leadership of Laura Little, program manager, the farm is now home to 15 horses and serves over 160 families. Their signature program is the horseback riding lessons.
“I’ve seen people who were terrified and we have trouble getting them on a horse,” Little said. “And then after program, we have trouble getting them off.”
Little said the experience of learning to ride a horse gives the participants a feeling which they can’t find anywhere else.
“The riding gives them the freedom, the independence, and they are happy,” Little said.
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Participants are assigned a horse for their lesson and they are responsible for the duration of their lesson. This includes: brushing, grooming, feeding, and cleaning of the hoofs after the lesson is over. Little said the added responsibility creates a special bond between the horse and the rider.
In addition to the horse riding lessons, ARISE at the Farm features summer camps and acts as a recreational hang-out during school holidays. They even have special events such as their annual Halloween barn dance, which is on Saturday. All of these activities lead to a life changing experience.
“I had a parent tell me recently that this has been the best thing for his daughter,” Little said. “They wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”