One city organization is taking the reins by giving kids a place to learn and heal. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report.
At a riding stable in Forest Hills, Queens, Gallop NYC volunteer Alicia Kershaw and others help instruct rider Kim Sue, telling her when to stop and when to trot.
"They are always helping me and they try and make sure they look at me when they are talking to me," says Sue.
They have to look at her because Kim is deaf. She lip reads during her lessons.
"They take their time and the kids feel very comfortable," says Kim's mom, Paulette Sue.
Gallop NYC is a therapeutic riding program that teaches 130 kids, many of whom are autistic or have physical disabilities.
"Physically it engages their core, they have to hold them selves up on the horse, so it strengthens their stomach muscles, it strengthens their legs," says Gallop NYC volunteer Stephanie Krane.
Riding lessons usually cost $40. But two thirds of the children ride for free at stables in Brooklyn and Queens where Gallop NYC rents time. The program relies on more than 100 volunteers.
"Every rider needs three volunteers, one to lead the horse and two to walk on each side," says Gallop NYC volunteer Alicia Kershaw.
Instructors say it's important for students to feel comfortable with the horses before they start riding.
"Grooming the horse, leading the horse are ways to build that bond. Sitting on a horse is good but it's a little more distant than feeding it a carrot or petting him on the neck. So it's all part of the therapeutic approach and building that bond," explains Kershaw.
Kim has been riding with the program for two years. This year, the Gallop NYC team helped her apply for a scholarship from Foundation Grow, which pays for all of her lessons.
"I am unemployed at the moment so it was kind of hard for me so it is a very good thing for her to get the scholarship," says Paulette Sue.
Gallop NYC hopes to open its own stable one day, devoted exclusively to therapeutic riding.
"The volunteers are really making this thing happen, horse back riding is wonderful," says Kim Sue.
So for giving kids a leg up by teaching them to ride, the volunteers with Gallop NYC are the New Yorkers of the Week.If you'd like to nominate someone to be NY1's New Yorker of the Week, send an email describing their qualifications to: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail a letter to:
New Yorker of the Week
75 Ninth Avenue, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10011