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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

Levittown Hall in Hicksville comes alive every Thursday night with music, dance, fun and laughter as students are swept away into the world of Latin dance.

Under the instruction of professional teacher Mark James, dance hopefuls learn a trio of Latin dance, including salsa, meringue and what James describes as the biggest craze in Latin dancing today, bachata.

 book shops in Hicksville and around the country will hand out free comics on Oct. 25, to celebrate the second biggest free comic book event of the year—Halloween ComicFest. On Saturday, anyone who goes into a participating comic shop can choose from 19 free comics and participate in fun activities comic shops host for their customers to enjoy, while discovering new types of comics and the treasures found in store.

In Hicksville, both Game Master Games (954 S. Broadway) and Amok Time (108C New South Road) will be taking part in the Halloween ComicFest festivities. Game Master Games just recently started carrying comic books and this will be the store’s first comic book-related event. Coincidently, the event runs in the middle of an in-store gaming convention, and store owner Dave VanderWerf is looking forward to the increased exposure for the store.


Sports

The Hicksville girls volleyball team improved to 7-1 by knocking off Oceanside in three consecutive sets by scores of 25-13, 25-19 and 25-14.

Emily Markakis played terrificly, using a powerful serve to record three aces, seven kills and added nine digs. Nikki Chase added six kills and eight digs. Additionally, Raeann Dong was versatile—recording three aces, seven kills and nine digs.

The Girls Varsity soccer team, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, wore pink uniforms and pink socks in their game on Oct. 8 against MacArthur whom they defeated 1-0. The girls and boys soccer programs at Hicksville High School are selling pink ribbon car magnets with a soccer ball and HHS on it with the words “Kick Cancer” on the ribbon. All the money raised will go to the Sarah Grace Foundation, which is a local foundation trying to beat pediatric cancer. The players plan to raise $1,000 for this organization

— From Hicksville High School


Calendar

Board of Education Meeting

October 22

Oktoberfest

October 25-26

Pancake Breakfast

October 26



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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