In Pompey, dozens are putting their time and energy towards effecting lives across Central New York through therapeutic horsemanship.
"I can't imagine not doing this," said head instructor and executive director of From the Ground Up Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc., Andrea Colella.
From the Ground Up provides riding instruction as well as other horse related activities to people of all ages with special needs.
Riders typically participate for an hour, with fifteen minutes of general fitness activity, fifteen minutes of leading the horse and groundwork and half an hour of riding. Up to three volunteers assist riders, with one leading and two on either side of the horse.
"It does so much for so many people," Colella said. "Not just the riders, but the volunteers."
Many volunteers come to the program with little knowledge of horses, so volunteering offers them an opportunity to get close to the animals, Colella said.
For the riders themselves, Colella said, the benefits are countless. Riders have to follow patterns and directions, offering a mental workout as well as a physical workout.
The program also offers a social element, Colella said, giving riders opportunities for socializing with other riders and volunteers as well as the unique bond between riders and an animal.
Another large benefit, Colella said, is "the self-esteem that comes with being able to guide and direct a 1200-pound animal."
Therapeutic riding can improve balance, motor skills, coordination, flexibility, posture, muscle tone, sensory integration, problem solving, planning, memory, teamwork, cognitive abilities and self-esteem in participants.
From the Ground Up has five horses - four donated and one belonging to Colella. The program uses space donated by Jill and Vic LaFrenz, who own Windy Hill Farms off of Route 20 in Pompey. From the Ground Up is in its second summer at Windy Hill Farms.