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Horseback Riding Program In Lincoln Helps Kids With Special Needs

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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LINCOLN (CBS) – Working together on a unique therapy for special needs kids, that’s the goal of the volunteers at the Lovelane horseback riding program in Lincoln. And that teamwork is making a difference in the lives of people like 28-year-old Megan, and 4-year-old Grace. Since 1988 the program has worked with special needs kids. Today it provides over 4,000 therapeutic riding sessions each year. “We have kids with Down Syndrome, we have kids with Autism, we have kids with developmental delay,” says Lisa Williams, Lovelane’s director of volunteers.

Learning to ride and handle a horse helps with strength, balance coordination and confidence. “I like coming here, riding and taking care of horses. It’s kind of my sport,” says Megan. Riders must learn to speak to the horses and command them. Grace has speech and language delays and started coming here in July. Her mother already sees a difference. “She comes home and she tells everyone she wants to be a horseback riding teacher when she grows up, which is just great,” says Gail Agreste, Grace’s mom.

But nothing would happen here without an army of volunteers. It takes more than 100 every week to team up with the licensed instructors and staff. “The volunteers are wonderful. They are kind and patient,” says Agreste. Erin Cummings has volunteered for 12 years. “It’s the best part of my week. I come in with a million things on my mind and I leave with the one thought that maybe for a few minutes I made a little dent in someone’s life, and maybe made things better,” she says. Olivia English has volunteered for three years. “I just found such a family here. Plus I like working with these guys (the horses) and how gentle they are with these children with special needs,” says English.

And with the cost of caring for the horses and running the program the thousands of volunteer hours help keep the therapy affordable for families. “Everyone is so enthusiastic and supportive, and that’s what helps make us be so successful and able to serve so many kids,” says Williams.

Lovelane provides riding therapy for children and young adults from 41 Mass. communities.

Do you know people working together to make their communities better? Let WBZ-TV producer Ken Tucci know, and maybe we’ll do a story about them: krtucci@wbztv.com

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