GallopNYC celebrates new accessible ramp at Howard Beach barn

L’Hava and the ramp
Long time GallopNYC L’Hava at the unveiling of their new ramp in Howard Beach. (Photo courtesy of GallopNYC)

GallopNYC, a Queens-based horseback riding and therapeutic horsemanship nonprofit, unveiled a new accessibility ramp in Howard Beach this week.

The organization, which focuses on providing lessons for all New Yorkers, particularly riders with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and at-risk youth, received the funds for the fully ADA compliant ramp’s design and installation thanks to The Hartford’s Ability Equipped program.

“The new ramp is a significant improvement for both our riders and our horses,” said James Wilson, executive director of GallopNYC. “It allows riders to more easily mount their horse for their life changing lesson, and it’s less stressful for the horse as well. This ramp is something we could have never designed and built ourselves, and we are incredibly grateful to The Hartford’s Ability Equipped program for funding it.”

Wilson said it took them more than a year to get the new ramp, which isn’t just better for most riders but even for the horse.

“If you climb up steps and you grab the saddle and pull, as often riders do, it tweaks the horses back,” he said during their Zoom unveiling of the ramp. “So being able to go up that ramp and use [it] and the big mounting platform to mount the horse is a really, really great way for the horse to feel calm, at ease and not stressful.”

Wilson said the new ramp would not be possible without the help of The Hartford Ability Equipped program, which is meant to empower youth and adults with disabilities to achieve amazing things by making adaptive equipment and sports more accessible, as well as Move United, a nonprofit focused on promoting parasports among youths and adults with physical disabilities.

GallopNYC has barns located at Howard Beach and Forest Hills, and has been providing a variety of programs for New Yorkers for 15 years.

They provided lessons to more than 500 riders a week before COVID-19 forced them to reduce their capacity. Wilson said that like most small businesses, navigating the pandemic had been difficult.

“We’re extremely lucky to have a strong community of donors and friends that has helped to support us during this difficult time, and we’re fortunate that we can continue to offer limited therapeutic and recreational riding lessons,” Wilson said. “We are focused on working with only one client at a time to preserve social distance, and have developed COVID-19 safety protocols with guidance from the NYC and NY state, in an effort to allow New Yorkers continued access to this life changing therapeutic activity.”

They are now back to providing lessons at their Forest Hills facility.

During the unveiling of the new ramp, one of their long time riders, L’Hava, demonstrated how the incline will allow riders to make their way to their horse, so they can then mount the horse from a more secure and solid platform.

Wilson also presented a new custom saddle to another long time rider, David, and his mom, Jocelyn. David thanked GallopNYC and spoke about how riding helps him “feel free,” stronger and more confident.

For more information on GallopNYC’s programs, visit their website at gallopnyc.org.

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