A Surprise Ride for Some Young Equestrians

by Eric Mollo
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The Yankees Head North to Walk Alongside Young Horseback Riders

While horseback riding is a recreational activity for most people, it serves as a developmental, confidence-building exercise for the children of Flying Manes. Located at the Riverdale Equestrian Center in the North Bronx, trained volunteers teach children ages four and older various equine activities through the forum of therapeutic riding.

Bricklin and Stefanie Dwyer, who founded the Flying Manes program four years ago, wanted to give children with physical, mental, and emotional conditions the opportunity to ride horses. But they felt teaching kids about equine care and behavior would do more than give them something to do each Saturday. They saw a correlation between horseback riding and self-esteem. Modeled after PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) therapeutic riding standards, Flying Manes trains volunteers to teach students about equine care in hopes that the skills they learn in lessons will translate into confidence in their everyday social interactions with family and friends. The Dwyers, along with Flying Manes’ students and volunteers, received a little riding assistance from the New York Yankees on the first day of HOPE Week.

Flying Manes typically operates on Saturdays from eight to one, but the Dwyers opened up the stable on Monday June 25th and invited students and volunteers in for a special ride. The group arrived at 10:30 and waited in a circle in the outdoor riding arena, blind to what would be coming next. In the north left corner, four horses were led out of the stable by Yankee players Mark Teixeira, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Introductions included pictures with the children and horses as well as a ten thousand dollar check from the Yankees presented to Stefanie by Teixeira. The Yankees then helped the kids into their saddles, grabbed the reigns of the horses, and carefully guided the children as they rode their horses around the outdoor arena.

While the visit from the four Yankees overjoyed the kids, it was the Flying Manes students who taught the team a little bit about horse riding. After admitting he had never ridden a horse, Mark Teixeira talked about learning the different terms used for equine care and riding, such as getting the horse to stop and go by saying “walk on” and “whoa.” Once they picked up some tips, the four Yankees took the kids back towards the stable and ate an outdoor lunch. Following their meal, the Flying Manes kids were taken to the stadium for Monday’s game against the Cleveland Indians and were allowed to step on the field to meet the entire team.

The Dwyers began the Flying Manes project four years ago with hopes of building confidence in young individuals. The Yankees not only gave these kids a confidence boost that Monday morning, but left a special, life-lasting memory.

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