Equine therapy facility has ribbon cutting for new barn

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

Patrick O’Connor leans close to his therapy horse, Poco, during a ribbon-cutting for a new barn at the Seaview Equine Learning Facility at Star Hollow Stables in South Dennis Thursday, Aug. 21. Patrick O’Connor leans close to his therapy horse, Poco, during a ribbon-cutting for a new barn at the Seaview Equine Learning Facility at Star Hollow Stables in South Dennis Thursday, Aug. 21. SOUTH DENNIS – One of the founders of an equine therapy center stopped in mid-sentence during a ribbon-cutting for a new barn housing therapy horses in South Dennis.

To her left, state and federal representatives waited patiently for Pat Moran to finish her speech, so that they could recognize her for the work that she does for physically and mentally traumatized people in the area.

On her right, another representative with the federal Department of Agriculture stood expectantly with a group of volunteers, supporters and media, waiting for Moran to continue.

It wasn’t that Moran wasn’t grateful for the $36,000 grant that Howard Henderson, USDA state director rural development, had presented to her to help finish the barn for the Seaview Equine Learning Facility.

Neither was it that the founder didn’t appreciate that state Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, along with representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Frank Lobiondo and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, had come to the barn to laud the work she and her volunteers do for physically and mentally challenged people.

But for the moment, Moran was entirely focused on the young man in front of her – Patrick O’Connor, confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy.

“Do you want to get to your horse?” Moran asked, ignoring everyone else in the spacious, 13-stall horse barn.

Cerebral palsy had twisted O’Connor’s limbs, and he could barely move. Yet, at that moment, O’Connor tipped his head back and looked up at Moran.

“Yes,” Moran said, quietly answering herself. “Let’s get you to your horse.”

Equine therapy

Devon Reed, 7, visits with Willow, a miniature horse, prior to a ribbon cutting at the new barn. Devon Reed, 7, visits with Willow, a miniature horse, prior to a ribbon cutting at the new barn. A horse can be a powerful partner in therapy, Moran said. While they’re big and strong, a well-trained horse can be graceful and gentle, requiring the type of care that O’Connor can offer, that simultaneously stretches out the young man’s limbs.

“It’s grooming therapy for Patrick,” Moran said. “His hands are stiff, but petting and brushing the horse can help give him some mobility.”

It also builds confidence, as O’Connor’s chosen therapy horse is easily 10 times the young man’s weight.

And that’s especially true for another, much younger rider.

Four months ago, Devon Reed, 7, Rio Grande, was introduced to Biscuit, one of the therapy horses at the facility.

“She was apprehensive at first,” said her father, Brian Reed. “But I knew she’d adjust.”

Brian’s faith in his daughter’s fearlessness is reflected in the young girl’s joyous grin. Devon also has cerebral palsy, but that didn’t slow her down as she pushed her walker alongside Willow, a miniature horse, as he was led to the facility’s new barn in South Dennis.

Determined to keep up, Devon shoved her walker through the soft sand between the barns, hollering for her own therapy horse.

“It’s amazing the difference we’ve seen since Devon began here,” Brian said. “She’s adjusting to all of the horses, and her flexibility has improved.”

It’s clear that Biscuit is her favorite animal, even though Willow is smaller. Once the ribbon was cut to officially open the new barn, Devon pushed her walker down the wide aisle to find and talk to Biscuit.

“We had the barn built with an extra wide aisle so that people in wheelchairs wouldn’t have any problems when they visit the therapy horses,” Moran said.

Brian said that his daughter’s balance has dramatically improved, as has her strength.

The program

Devon Reed, 7, walks with Alexa Dipalantino, a 4-H volunteer at the therapy facility, as the two take Willow to the new barn. Devon Reed, 7, walks with Alexa Dipalantino, a 4-H volunteer at the therapy facility, as the two take Willow to the new barn. The Seaview Equine Learning Facility is part of Star Hollow Stables in South Dennis. Moran said that therapy classes are offered three days a week at $45 per session.

There are group rates available for schools, and Moran said that she works with children from Cape May County Special Services School District, as well as kids from Upper Township special education classes.

Abby Revoir manages the stables, and she is certified as a trainer for Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, or EAGALA. The barn has six therapy horses.

Also working at the barn are Cheryl Moore, who, along with Moran, founded the equine learning facility. Angi Dickinson, Matt Sykes and Misty Bratton also work at the facility.

In addition, volunteers from the Star Hollow Riders 4-H Club help trainers work with people who have mental and physical disabilities.

“Our therapy program is limited only by the number of volunteers that we have,” Moran said. “Working with the physically and mentally challenged can be very people intensive.”

State and federal recognition

Pat Moran Pat Moran Robert Geist, a LoBiondo representative, noted that while it was the USDA that gave a grant to Moran to help offset the $160,000 cost of the barn, it was the volunteers and people of the county that helped make the therapy facility a reality.

Richard Locklear, representing Menendez, said the senator was glad that money was coming into the community in a way that helps people.

Henderson said the USDA was proud to work with Moran to provide the grant.

“This is the first time the USDA has ever provided assistance to an equine therapy program,” Henderson said. “When we learned that Pat’s program was well-regarded in the community, we helped them with the application process.”

Andrzejczak’s viewpoint was one of both patient and elected official.

“When I was blown up in Iraq,” he said, “part of my therapy was riding a therapy horse once a week in Washington D.C.” Andrzejczak reached through the bars of a stall and rubbed a horse.

“I’m very familiar with the therapy, and I know it’s beneficial.”

For more information, call 609-408-3310.

David Benson can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Comment on this story at www.middletownshipgazette.com

4-H volunteers Mackenzie Doughty, Maysen Gibboni, Natalie Arch, Alexa Dipalantino, Jessica Raymond and Carly Krieg. 4-H volunteers Mackenzie Doughty, Maysen Gibboni, Natalie Arch, Alexa Dipalantino, Jessica Raymond and Carly Krieg. Devon Reed Devon Reed

 


blog comments powered by Disqus