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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

Vastra boutique finds a niche

in hand-embroidered dresses

Who says a bride has to wear white on her wedding day? For South Asian brides, no color is off limits including brilliant reds, blues and golds. For the past 17 years, Vastra in Hicksville has been helping brides from New York and across the country find the perfect dress for their special day.

There’s no lack of Indian sari boutiques in Hicksville but according to Marketing Director Prachi Jain, what sets Vastra apart from the others is its emphasis on one of a kind, hand-embroidered Indian dresses.

Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.

Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.


Sports

Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.

It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.

I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.

Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup.  I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club.  This U16 team has a group of standout players led by  Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.


Calendar

Close Encounters with Benevolent ETs and Ascended Masters

August 29

Adventures in Genealogy

September 4

Greek Festival

September 5-7



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com