Trisha Williams has seen firsthand what adaptive horseback riding can do: through her work with Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Washington state, she learned that riding a horse and experiencing the mechanics of the horse's gait have positive benefits for those individuals with disabilities or diseases affecting their senses, muscles, and ability to walk.
"Programs like [Little Bit] help develop core muscle strength to keep people walking longer," said Williams, who has degrees in social welfare and chemical dependency counseling. "There’s something about the movement of the horse."
Now, Wiliams along with her partner Robert Kenific are hoping to establish an adaptive riding program of their own: they've called it "Synergy Stables." The couple, who presently live in Stony Brook, launched a campaign on indiegogo.com and a Facebook page to raise $45,000 in start-up funds to build a program in their hometown of Mexico, New York, which is in the Syracuse area.
So far, they have raised $2,222 with 24 days left in their campaign. The amount of money they raise – even if it's just a few thousand dollars – will dictate how quickly they are able to start their program. Their start-up costs will include things like bringing in and caring for the horses, staffing for their programs, insurance, facilities, and equipment.
Synergy Stables aims to "cultivate connections through inclusion adaptive horsemanship and experiential learning to improve the minds, bodies and spirits of people living with and without disabilities alike, and to be an inspiration and education resource for the experiential learning profession regionally, nationally and internationally."
Williams said there are limited opportunities like this in the central New York area. "In our hometown area, the closest program is an hour away," she said. "We wanted to make an impact on our hometown."
They eventually hope to become certified with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International, a group with a mission statement of "ensuring excellence and changing lives through equine-assisted activities and therapies."
Among the couple's next steps is formally establishing Synergy Stables as a 501(c)3 organization, which they hope will "open the door for lots of different types of giving," Williams said.
Fundraising will be a continual challenge for Synergy Stables.
"We aren’t going to charge people, and we wouldn’t want to anyway," said Kenific, a former wilderness guide who now works in carpentry. "It’s just going to be a constant process of community helping community."
Donations have been coming in from all over – even as far as Sweden.
"One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is people's generosity, and you never know where it’s going to come from," she said. "We’ve been trying to talk to everyone we know, because you never know who is affected by disability."