Center receives special grant for lessons for disabled residents
TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes has announced that the Mercer County Equestrian Center of the Mercer County Park Commission has received a $10,000 Recreation Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities grant for its hippotherapy program.
The grant, which comes from the N.J. Department of Community Affairs, will aid in the purchase of equipment for the existing hippotherapy classes and go toward development of a "driving" program for those not able to sit on a horse, which may include the elderly or injured veterans, Hughes said.
"I am pleased to see this facility being put to good use by the people in Mercer County," Hughes said. "It's important to provide recreational programs for community members to enjoy, and to make sure that these programs are inclusive for all. The hippotherapy program allows access to the great sport of equestrianism for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity."
Hippotherapy programs use horseback riding in conjunction with trained professionals as a means of therapy for disabled individuals, including those with movement dysfunction, or people with emotional or mental disabilities. The smooth, rhythmic gait of the horse reflects positively on the rider, resulting in enhanced flexibility, coordination, balance, and muscle strength. Other benefits seen through hippotherapy include increased self- esteem and confidence for the rider, a greater ability to create bonds with others and increased patience.
John Sikorski of Lawrenceville, father of Chris Sikorski, 17, an avid participant in Mercer County's hippotherapy program, agrees. "I just want to say how wonderful a program it is. It is a very special program for the special-needs community. The staff of this program should be especially recognized. They always go above and beyond for the riders in this program and are very qualified. I thank the county for having such a program available."
Since entering the hippotherapy program, Chris Sikorsky has competed in riding competitions in New Jersey including the Special Olympics and has won numerous awards.
The 243-Acre Equestrian Center in Mercer County located off Federal City Road in Hopewell Township has been in operation since 1996 and continues to attract riders to participate in private and group riding classes. Summer camp and trail ride permits are also available and visitors of the center can walk through the barns and the property at their leisure for no charge. The center's hippotherapy therapeutic riding classes have been in service since April 2005.
The Mercer County Equestrian Center may be contacted at (609) 730-9059. For information on riding lessons only, call (609) 818-1397. Mercer County Equestrian Center's Spring Session begins April 14 and in-person registrations will be held March 8 beginning at 7:30 a.m. at the facility. Classes fill up very quickly. For additional information, go to Mercer County's web site at www.mercercounty.org and click on Parks and Commissions in the left-hand menu.