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Two Decades Of Riding, Healing At HorseAbility

Unique facility at SUNY Old Westbury
pairs horses and those with special needs

This year, HorseAbility, Long Island’s center for equine facilitated programs, is celebrating its 20th anniversary, helping those with special needs since 1993.

Kathleen Kilcommons McGowan founded HorseAbility in 1993 when she lent her horse to a friend who was also a physical therapist. Her friend used hippotherapy, which helps with motor disabilities by promoting motor-planning abilities, mobilizing the hips and lower spine and stimulating the central nervous system.  All of this is done in the presence of a horse.

McGowan watched the emotional connection between the horse and the child whom her friend treated and also noticed how the child’s progress accelerated through the use of the horse. It was in that moment that she found her calling.

“Katie McGowan, who is our founder and executive director, founded HorseAbility 20 years ago this year with only one horse, a couple of riders and two volunteers,” said Annie Follansbee, program pirector at HorseAbility. “Now, we’re up to seeing 450 clients annually, we have around 350 volunteers annually and our herd [of horses] is now 17 and growing.”

HorseAbility, located on the campus of SUNY College at Old Westbury, is the only premier accredited Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) center on Long Island, according to Follansbee.

The HorseAbility program accommodates those of all different ages and special needs. According to Follansbee, riders start as young as 2-and-a-half years of age and continue to those in the senior citizen age group.

HorseAbility treats riders with many different kinds of special needs, including Downs Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, ADHD, learning disabilities and more.  “As long as their doctor clears them to ride, we can treat them here,” Follansbee remarked.

In 2001, HorseAbility created Camp HorseAbility, a weeklong event for those with special needs that includes riding, learning and enjoying the experience. Camp HorseAbility takes place during August and is located at Thomas School of Horsemanship in Melville, N.Y.

The program is also responsible for The Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities (LIHSSRD), which is the first of its kind. The finals are held at the prestigious, world-renowned Hampton Classic Horse Show each year.

HorseAbility would not be what it is today without its volunteers, who serve the program in many ways, including fundraising, horse and stable care and assisting with therapeutic riding and hippotherapy sessions.

“My first year volunteering was in the summer of 2004,” said volunteer Maria Piuggi, 19. “Clearly, I loved it and felt like I was making a difference, so I’ve been volunteering every year since then.”

HorseAbility hosts many fundraising events throughout the year, in addition to an annual appeal to raise $2.6 million for renovations an old barn on their property, which will allow more horses and riding space. The program is also hosting a gala celebrating 20 years, which was moved from Nov. 2 to Jan. 11 due to Hurricane Sandy, as well as the organization’s first golf outing in May at Wheatley Hills Golf Club.

“My favorite part about being a volunteer at HorseAbility is having the feeling that you are a part of another family and knowing you are making a difference in the world,” Piuggi said. “The experience is so fun and positive and that’s what I love about it.”

News

Get out your needle and thread, glue gun, beads, and paint. Creative Cups, the popular, life-affirming fund raising event of the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program, is back. This is the fourth time that Creative Cups has happened on Long Island and allows artists, breast cancer survivors, their friends, family members and others to use originality and creativity to transform ordinary bras into works of art. Creative Cups celebrates the lives of those living with breast cancer and those we have lost to this terrible disease. All are invited to participate by creating an “art bra” or becoming a sponsor.

Fran Mulholland from Hicksville along with her friend Emilia Goncalves decorated a bra for last year’s Creative Cups. Their bra was themed “Celebrating Another Birthday.”

Linda Doyle knows how to make a good hot dog. And she doesn’t need a big fancy kitchen or shiny barbeque grill to do it. Rather, Doyle’s famous franks are served out of a small trailer on the side of S. Broadway.

For the past 16 years, passers-by coming along S. Broadway looking for a delicious, cheap bite to eat for lunch or a pre-dinner snack have been stopping by Linda’s Hot Dog Boutique, a simple white trailer adorned by a flag, yellow umbrella and two signs.


Sports

Hicksville High School senior Kyle Carroll recently participated in the prestigious Blue Grey Super Combine in Canton OH. Over 7,000 high school football players are invited to combines sponsored by Blue Grey Football throughout the country. Carroll was recognized for his overall scores and abilities during the one on one drills and was honored to have been chosen as one of 140 athletes invited to the Super Combine at the Football Hall of Fame. From there, a select few will be invited to play in the Blue Grey All-America Bowls in December in Texas and in January in Florida.  

The Super Combine in Canton took place on Fawcett Field at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The combine featured some of the top football prospects from around the country. Carroll fit seamlessly into the drills as he displayed impressive work with fast feet and hip turns as well as skilled ball handling ability.

Madeline Huffman, a fourth grade student at Our Lady of Mercy School in Hicksville, recently became the New York State Free Throw Champion in the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Competition, 9 Year Old Girls Division at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Huffman’s journey to the state championship began at her home parish, Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church in January. The local qualifier was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Joseph F. Lamb Council #5723. Boys and girls ages 9 through 14 competed, each receiving three warm up shots and 15 free throw attempts.


Calendar

Erik’s Reptile Edventure

July 30

Soccer For A Cause

August 2

Blood Drive

August 2



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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