#Fun4thedisabled highlights MainStay Farms, a stable that serves a multitude of disabilities through equine therapy.

[Transcript with visual descriptions: Video begins with #fun4thedisabled logo. On-screen text reads: For more information, and to view the transcript of this video, check out Fun4theDisabled.com. Lighthearted acoustic music plays while footage is shown of children riding horses. Jean Maraist, the program director of MainStay Farms, is now on-screen. Footage of her speaking is intertwined with footage of the farm and animals.]

JEAN MARAIST: We are a farm that offers a wide variety of services to people with a variety of needs. We have therapeutic horseback riding, which is basically a riding lesson for people that may not be able to ride at a typical barn. We also do equine and animal-assisted learning programming with our herd of large horses and our small animals. We have sheep, and goats, and rabbits. So we do a lot of things on the ground, too, with the animals, learning how we can learn from the animals as well. We also have an adaptive garden and we do team building sessions for organizations and corporations, utilizing the animals also.

So we have thirteen big horses and we also have a herd of small rescued livestock. All of our small livestock have been rescued and donated to the farm. And we use their stories, their rescue stories, with our clients because it helps them know that maybe at some point you were in a bad situation and now you’re in a good situation.

A lot of our therapeutic riding clients are people on the autism spectrum. We have riders with cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome. We have adults that are post-stroke or car accident, social/emotional behavioral classes with special education classrooms, seniors with disabilities, local kids from head start, kids from residential therapeutic day schools, so it’s a wide variety of folks, that come to the farm. But we say we have people as young as 3 and as old as 93.

Well, the animals have their own personalities and we want them to have their own personalities because we can utilize that during a session, where we can talk about being shy or fearful or rambunctious or maybe even annoying to a friend, those sorts of things.

Mainstay is a premier accredited center so that means we’ve gone through all these standards related to our facility, our programming, our administration, our horses, and our land. We’ve been a premier accredited center since our founding in 1987. We have a heated indoor arena, we have brand new stalls for the horses, we have meeting space room and it’s just, it was meant to be a space where people could come and feel at ease and at peace and a part of nature. So, therapeutic riding is the cornerstone of our programming. That is the horseback riding lesson for a person that might need additional help and can’t ride at a typical barn. But they’re also working on goals and skills that help them live and work in their everyday life. And then our equine and animal assisted learning program are weekly sessions, that are typically with a group, possibly a school group or another nonprofit organization, and they come and they set their goals as well. Those tend to be working with a peer, conflict resolution, getting along with others. And then our team building is for our organizations and nonprofits or corporations where they may want to come and do a team building day here at the farm and utilize our meeting room space and also get to play and work with the animals as well.

Safety is our number one priority. We always do an initial assessment on every rider to make sure that it’s something that they can do. And then it’s really up to them, if we feel you’re safe and we feel like we have a horse that’ll work, then we say give it a try. You know, sometimes people are fearful because they don’t have a lot of experience but that’s why we have a leader, who’s leading the horse typically, we have side walkers on either side of the person, so that if you have that fear, that worry, you’re very well supported around you. If they are going to lead a horse, they have to have significant horse experience because they’re making sure that the rider that is riding the horse, stays safe. All of our instructors are certified through Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. They have to demonstrate their horsemanship skills and their ability to work with people with disabilities. We utilize about 75 active volunteers a week and we have over 100 volunteers that help in some capacity at the farm throughout the year.

So our mission is really to be a place where everybody belongs. We want to encourage and enrich, and empower people to continue to achieve their goals and set goals, and sort of be an alternative or complementary therapeutic activity. There are a lot of kids that have done a lot of therapy, this is something different and fun and a little bit more motivational. So, those are the things, it’s a place where a lot of kids may say their first word. We have a lot of folks that might come after an accident or an injury, that starts out in a wheelchair, they graduate to a walker, then they just go to walking independently.

Well, I think one of the most important things about therapeutic riding is it’s really a space where everybody can belong and we really focus on your abilities and not what you can’t do. And I think that’s really important wherever you go, it is to talk about what do you want to do, not what you can’t do. The animals are very non-judgmental. They accept you for who you are and it can really just be a very sweet, nice partnership with somebody that’s not a human. If you love animals, if you love nature, if you love horses then there’s probably something you could enjoy doing at the farm.

[Video ends with credit roll and fun4thedisabled logo and on-screen text: VA Harris PE Productions. Transcribed and captioned by aslcaptions.com.]

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