CTREE: The Healing Power Of Horses

Winston Churchill famously said, “No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle.” This is a profound truth for those with special needs who participate at CTREE, the Center for Therapeutic Riding on the East End. CTREE celebrates its twelfth year transforming lives through therapeutic riding lessons and equine assisted services to children and adults with emotional, cognitive, and physical disabilities. 

Its annual fundraiser at the picturesque Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, with honorary co-chairs Gabby Karan de Felice and Gianpaolo de Felice, will be held Thursday, August 24, famous for its incredible silent auction and Instagram worthy sunsets. There is a magic moment when a participant arrives at CTREE’s private barn in Sagaponack to greet their trusty steed, pet their muzzle, and get a leg up into the saddle. The world looks a little brighter as they instruct their mount with a smile, “Walk on.”

They are now part of a team, horse and rider, moving as one with enthusiastic instructors and volunteers dedicated to their success. And if you look around you will see their caregiver exhale, relax, and shed a few worries knowing the next half hour is a highlight of the week.

The way it works physically is that the horse’s movement has a dynamic effect on the rider’s body.  The motion of the horse stimulates the rider’s pelvis and trunk in a manner that closely resembles the normal gait of a human walking. This input can produce specific physical changes in the rider’s body, including normalization of muscle tone, increased endurance, and improvements in core strength, posture, balance, and coordination. While walking on land may be difficult for some participants, in the saddle they are free. There is also a social and emotional component to connect with an animal and learn to communicate.

CTREE has also established a relationship with Fighting Chance, a counseling and resource center for cancer patients and survivors in Sag Harbor. For these guests it is simply being in the presence of and caring for these sentient animals that creates an emotional calming. It is the serenity of the barn and adjacent sculpture garden that provide the safe space for sharing. Participants say: “This is the best day I’ve had since I found out that I had two cancers.” “It was so nice to have someone caring me for once.” “I’m home!” “Being with nature helps me to stay grounded.” Another benefit, the program is an opportunity for horses in their later years to have a loving home and important job. They are chosen for their temperaments, their innate knowledge they are carrying precious cargo.

CTREE relies on donations to cover 80 percent of its annual operating costs. Contributions support their programs and ensure the ongoing sustainability of their operations, including care of the horses and scholarship support to financially disadvantaged participants. It is also a rewarding place to volunteer.

For more information on the program and tickets to the fundraiser, visit ctreeny.org.

Heather Buchanan

Heather Buchanan is an award-winning writer with the accolades of "Best Column" and "Best Humor Column" from both the National Association of Newspaper Columnists and the Press Club of Long Island. Having first dipped her toes in the beaches of Sagaponack at three weeks old she has a long lens on Hamptons real estate both as a journalist, marketer, and buyer and seller before joining Sotheby’s International Realty. With her in-depth knowledge and personal dedication, she has been helping clients realize their dreams of a home in the Hamptons. When she is not working, she is perfecting her secret pie crust recipe, mastering the nine iron or making peace with pigeon pose.

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