A few years ago, I was feeling like my existence did not make much of a difference. A friend said, "volunteer". So I found GallopNYC. Being around horses was already amazing, but I had no idea that being around the people who make up GallopNYC would change my outlook on life. Watching the joy and the gratitude of the riders and their parents is the best medicine for a lost soul. Being able to give of myself in this way has been a magnificent gift.
I started as a volunteer with Gallop in Forest HIlls over three years ago. I was then hired to work with them on developing an educational/internship program for young adults on the Autism Spectrum sponsored by a grant from Autism Speaks. I loved working with the staff at Gallop and the children and adults who benefited from their patience and experience. This is a great place to volunteer or work!
Watching what happens when a child, with or without disabilities, gets on a horse for a GallopNYC session is life-transforming, both for the child and for you. GallopNYC is doing phenomenal work with some of the most difficult to treat populations, among them those with autism, developmental disorders, brain injury, emotional trauma, etc. It's hard not to get choked up when you see a rider's uncertainty and apprehension turn into joy and pride at sitting tall on a powerful creature. GallopNYC's strength is its leadership, staff, instructors and volunteers -- they are kind, enthusiastic, careful, patient, dedicated, skillful, effective, and so happy to be helping. It is a profoundly moving and rewarding thing to witness.
I was a volunteer with this wonderful organization for over 2 years before I had to stop. I moved and the trip was now 1-1/2 hours each way. But let me tell you, it's really worth it: GALLOPNyc helps alternative learners to ride. Seems deceptively simple but what it also does is teach the students to listen, follow direction, stretch, give direction, builds confidence like you wouldn't believe and friendships. As a weekly volunteer, I could follow the progress of the "Friday riders" which I helped. From not wanting to get on a horse, to trotting and waving to mom in a matter of weeks, from never saying a word to shouting commands, well, you get the idea. It's a truly remarkable organization. Everyone who helps out is there because they want to be. We all share stories, cheer on our students, share in the ups and downs, progress and fall-backs. I am a much better human being for having participated with GALLOPNyc.
To see a disabled child come into the stable for the first time, look around in wonder, and at the end of their ride, thank the horse with a carrot and a pat on the nose, is more than wonderful. There are children who don't want to get up on the horse, but after a few minutes of patting the horse and getting to know them, the joy on their faces as they have their first lessons is breath-taking. It's miraculous. It's the best volunteer job one could ever have. It's real, right in front of you. Change in one person's life equals two, three or four - the teacher and us volunteers too.
Gallop is, quite simply, the most outstanding and innovative program to aid, educate and enhance the lives of mentally and physically challenged individuals that I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. Watching the physical and emotional progress of the riders is proof positive of the overwhelming value of therapeutic riding. Therapeutic riding is significant not only for its experiential value, but also for its transformational ability. I have personally observed the change in the physical strength and cognitive capabilities of the program's participants even after a single session with the program's talented and committed instructors.
Review from Guidestar
Our six year old daughter Emma has mild sensory integration dysfunction. She is a sensory seeker, and has had a difficult time sitting still for long periods of time, as well as following directions. She began riding horses with Gallop almost two years ago, and began showing improvement almost immediately. While on the horse, Emma is attentive and alert. She is able to follow multi-step instructions from her therapist during her 30-minute sessions. Hippotherapy is very beneficial for postural control and core stability, both of which Emma is deficient in. As Emma rides the horse, she constantly has to shift in the center of gravity in response to the horse’s movement, causing her to gain control over the muscles required to maintain equilibrium and balance. She now has a wonderfully increased sense of balance (sits up very erect) and a whole new sense of control. All of this she does with an infectious smile on her face and a look of great pride and accomplishment. She looks forward to her lessons every Monday, and comes to us eager and ready to work.
I have two sons involved with the GallopNYC riding program. The growth I have seen in each of them is beyond what I could have imagined. One of my sons was terrified of animals for years, and with the help of incredible GallopNYC therapists was able to find connection with beautiful ponies and horses. Both boys have experienced a growth in confidence that is immeasurable and affects so many other areas of their lives. If one can ride a horse, then certainly other challenges can be tackled! It's had such a direct impact. The therapists and teachers are always encouraging and give such sensitive treatment to the children and families, and in turn teach them to care more for the generous ponies and horses. This program is so empowering to these young people and I can only imagine the impact those memories and accomplishments will have on their future endeavors. The organization is a genuine gift, particularly for children previously unaccustomed to feeling successful.
Gallop is wonderfully effective therapeutic riding program operating out of Brooklyn's Kensington Stables. It's very diverse youth ridership has benefitted both phscially and emotionally from their Gallop experience. The organization has been able to attract an equally diverse cadre of committed volunteers, as well as a well-connected and highly engaged board of directors. Plus, Gallop's Executive Director is very strong. I'm fully confident that this young organization will soon be realizing its full potential.
I came to GallopNYC as a volunteer in April 2009, and it is a truly amazing therapeutic horseback riding program. The joy, confidence, strength and ability that the riders who participate in our program develop is readily apparent. I have watched children with autism spectrum disorder arrive at a lesson, showing signs of being 'disconnected' from their environment and the people around them -- and then 20 minutes later, they are exhibiting improved posture on horseback, responding to instructions, and making eye contact with the volunteers. Each individual benefits in unique ways from therapeutic riding. And as a volunteer, working at GallopNYC is the highlight of my week as well!