RINGWOOD, N.J. — A Ringwood farm brought special-needs students and horses together for an ongoing therapy program.
Starlight Farm started the volunteer effort 17 years ago, owner Rie Longo said. Around 40 kids a week from various school in North Jersey come to ride the horses. Even more come in the summer.
"It's nice bonding for the children and they learn empathy," Longo told Daily Voice. "Once their feet are off the ground and they start to feel the movement of the horse, they pay attention because they're on top of a 1,000 pound animal. It's very empowering. Children with problems with attention or who can't sit still have a better chance of learning something."
The rides act as therapy but the students also learn speech therapy while on the horse with seemingly improved focus, Longo said.
It also teaches them about following directions and staying on task to navigate the horses, she said.
The farm has volunteers who help steer the horse and walk with the student riders to make it safe. Longo said they're always on the lookout for more volunteers, since multiple people walk alongside each horse.
Longo said it's a wonderful experience both for the special-needs children and the volunteers who come to help.
"You see so many good things happen here," she said. "That's always uplifting. Especially for people who like the outdoors, it's a very positive environment."
TO VOLUNTEER: Visit Starlight Farm's website .