BEDFORD, N.Y. — As many as 80 special needs students, some as young as 4, will demonstrate the horsemanship skills they have learned as Bedford's own Coker Farm hosts the students of Pegasus Therapeutic Riding in a show Sunday.
It is the 31st annual show for Pegasus Therapeutic Riding, which was created to allow special needs children to experience the benefits of horse therapy.
“The movement of a horse is very similar to a human’s gait and when a person, able bodied or otherwise, rides a horse, the movement of the horse is very therapeutic for all your systems,” Pegasus communications director Christine Fitzgerald said.
For children with special needs, she said, riding a horse can help to stimulate different parts of their bodies and synapses of their brains. Learning to successfully control a horse also boosts children's self esteem, Fitzgerald said.
Some of the children will show off their skills in steering drills, some have learned to trot in a half seat or posting, and two riders will do a dressage demonstration. Each student will receive a ribbon in recognition of his or her achievements.
The event will also feature art activities, games, awards, a book signing by children’s author Deanie Humphrys-Dunne, raffles and a costume parade.
Coker Farm owner Judy Richter, an honorary member of the organization’s board of directors, said she has been involved with the program for about 25 years.
“I think it’s fantastic. It’s amazing what they do,” she said. “I have great admiration for them."
The show, which is open to the public, is presented by the nonprofit's headquarters at Pegasus Farm, a 20-acre therapeutic horse farm in Brewster. Students come from nearly 90 towns in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties in New York and Fairfield and Litchfield counties in Connecticut.
The program's therapy horses are bred at Pegasus Farm and trained extensively before being sent to one of four other chapters, which include Fox Hill Farm in Pleasantville and three farms in Connecticut.