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December 05, 2016
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Horses in our river valley

Photos by Marion Kaselle

Jill Welsh of Oak Ridge Farm in Youngsville, NY, offers another direction, with an emphasis on Western trail riding. Jill operates a boarding, breeding and lesson facility, just up the hill from the farm she grew up on. She teaches sound, basic horsemanship on steady mounts trained by her to be reliable and well rounded, handling whatever obstacles may appear upon a trail. Additionally, she teaches driving and therapeutic riding. As a registered nurse and a Level 2 instructor, she qualifies to teach the disabled, with a fully accessible ramp and safety gear in her indoor arena. Her beautiful 105-acre farm also has an outdoor grass arena and access to miles of trails.

Pennsylvania’s Wayne County hosts a number of facilities that provide training basics on safe, well-cared-for horses. Ben Goldberg of Fair Hill Farm in Tyler Hill, PA has a background with the elite of the hunter/jumper world. He works with beginners onward to the upper levels of a show career. His approach to all things Horse is holistic: in teaching, training, care, therapeutic work and farriery (the trimming and shoeing of horses’ hoofs: Ben is a certified, working farrier). Stressing classical equitation, he teaches riders to connect to their horse’s movement and energy through rhythm and balance, through spirit rather than “control,” to create empathetic harmony. The result is confidence and a safe environment for riders and horses.

Ben, a certified therapeutic riding instructor, has been working for many years with the physically, mentally and emotionally challenged. He and his father, Art, were among the founders of GallupNYC, the city’s therapeutic riding program. I spent a day at their Fair Hill Farm observing a large group of Honesdale High School students, half of them with special needs, the other half, for their senior project, working as trained volunteers assisting their fellow students. The entire group—students, staff and horses—interacted as a congenial, cohesive whole. The atmosphere was joyful, healing for all in attendance.

Karen Whitmore assists Ben Goldberg in the therapeutic riding programs, but also has her own training and boarding facility in Damascus, PA. She described her main activity as “a therapist for the horse–human relationship.” Additionally, she has created, with Diane Baynon, a mental health provider, an EAGALA program—that is, Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Therapy. They work with individuals and groups, students, staff, even CEOs, to reveal and heal relational, behavioral and managerial issues through interaction with Karen’s horses.