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Bursting from Winter’s Gate, Hamaspik Day Hab Springs Into Equestrian Therapy

Rockland County Men’s Program Kicks Off Warm Season at CampVenture Center

It may still be windy and rainy out there at times, and the snow’s not quite completely gone yet.  But one thing’s for sure: Those gloomy, bitterly cold winter days are gone—and spring is here!

Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Men’s Day Habilitation program, under the tried leadership of longtime Day Hab Director Pinchas Knopfler, got into the swing of spring mid-March with the program’s first visit of the season to CampVenture.

That venue, formally known as the Sen. Thomas Morahan-Ken Freson Therapeutic Equestrian Center, has been a destination of choice for Hamaspik of Rockland County for several seasons now.  It will be Hamaspik’s fifth year visiting the facility, Knopfler notes.

Horseback riding has long been known as therapeutic for people with a variety of needs, disability among them, giving rise since the 1970s to an ever increasingly organized and licensed discipline known as equine assisted activities and therapies (EEAT).

For close to half a decade now, the gentlemen at Hamaspik’s Day Habilitation program have been benefiting from sessions at CampVenture—visiting about once a week to hone their skills, tone their muscles and beef up their self-esteem both on and off the horse.

However, much of the winter season sees the boys off the horse because it’s just too cold outside for horse and rider alike.  But with the return of warmer days, Hamaspik’s equestrian season opener was held this past Monday, March 23.

Supervisor Ken Freson, therapeutic riding instructor Diane Vero and assistant to the instructor Mary Cashman once again found themselves greeting Mr. Knopfler and his Hamaspik contingent.  One at a time, the young men shortly found themselves getting on one of CampVenture’s experienced and patient equestrian therapy horses, with staff leading the gentle beasts and their riders around the high-ceilinged indoor corral.

While three groups of individuals delineated by function level, four to five young men in each, will eventually get on CampVenture’s horses during the visit, most must wait and watch as their peers ride.  Camp Venture is deliberately designed for that and several other disability-related scenarios, with a spacious and well-lit second-story waiting room allowing guests sweeping and relaxing views of the entire indoor arena. 

But equestrian therapy doesn’t work core muscle groups and improve balance.  Besides allowing the gentlemen to get used to horses, with mastering that fear a worthy achievement for anyone, the visits gives the riders with disabilities self-confidence and pride they didn’t have before.

“They change a lot, and we can contribute to it,” says Mr. Knopfler, asked what tangible benefits he’s witnessed in his charges post-riding.  “It uplifts them,” he says, “literally!”