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4 min read

Magical Moments: The Story of Ridgebury Riders

December 22, 2023

Hippotherapy session

“Magical moments happen daily at the farm” Haley Levesque, Program Coordinator.

On a repurposed dairy farm in Ridgebury Connecticut, "magical moments" are a regular occurrence. The farm is home to Ridgebury Riders, a nonprofit organization changing the lives of individuals, primarily children, with special needs through hippotherapy, which is occupational, speech, or physical therapy done on horseback.

Horses are excellent emotional and physical partners in therapy because they are highly intuitive, and their gaits stimulate muscle strength, coordination, and balance.

Horses can sense your emotions and offer you comfort, and you can do the same for them. They are an incredible conduit for emotional connection. It is who they are as beings” Carol, Volunteer.

Part of why hippotherapy is so effective for children is because– there’s a horse, of course! Kids at the farm are used to offices and clinicians, and this kind of therapy feels less like work and more like fun.

Hippotherapy with Landon  Hippotherapy with Landon

Four-year-old Landon completes a physical therapy exercise by grabbing toys from a jumping pole and placing them in a mailbox on the other side of the ring.

One child, Hayes, lives with a genetic condition causing lip and tongue ties that restrict his airways, affecting energy levels and brain function. He began riding six months ago and, in that time, has significantly improved his posture, endurance, and emotional regulation. His mother, Nadia, explained:

“It’s helping him build confidence in himself and he’s trying harder than he ever has before. All day he is told he isn’t doing something right or isn’t doing something well. Here people believe in him and help him believe in himself." 

A magical moment happened recently for Hayes:

“They encouraged him to lead a horse back to the barn on his own, and being able to do that independently filled him with such a sense of pride.”

Hippotherapy with Hayes

Nine-year-old Hayes gets a high-five for a hands-free posting trot.

Volunteers give this mission horsepower. Alongside a certified therapist, hippotherapy sessions require two volunteers —one to lead the horse and another to support the rider. For their 35 clients, the organization has nearly 50 volunteers, ranging in interest and age (from high school freshmen to retirees). Some have experience working with children, others love horses, and plenty have little to no experience with either.

“I attribute much of our ability to attract a range of interests and ages to VolunteerMatch. It has played a huge role in recruiting volunteers we wouldn't have found otherwise” Whitney Gearin.

One volunteer, a young woman named Paola, was motivated by the simple desire to get involved in her community. She discovered the organization through a VolunteerMatch Opportunity Alert, and while she had no experience with horses, she was excited to try something new. She recruited her father to join her, and now the two volunteer together every week!

“Everywhere I live, I find a new opportunity to volunteer through VolunteerMatch. It has been an incredible resource for me to connect with new communities” Paola.

Ridgebury Riders, like thousands of local nonprofits, rely on VolunteerMatch to find the volunteers they need to support our communities' most vulnerable populations. When you donate to VolunteerMatch, you're helping organizations around the country make the magical moments happen:

Donate to VolunteerMatch

Ridgebury Riders began in 2021, but already has a hugely successful volunteer program—take a deeper dive in what makes it work so well in our Q&A with Program Coordinator Haley Levesque.

Ridgebury Farm

Darcy Hughes

Written by Darcy Hughes

Darcy Hughes is the Content & Storytelling Manager at VolunteerMatch.