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Poway equestrian therapy center faces new support hurdle amid pandemic

Posted at 12:25 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 15:25:33-04

POWAY, Calif. (KGTV) — Allie Sarnataro is passionate about Ride Above Disability, a horse training therapy center in Poway, because of its ability to change lives for people with disabilities.

"We've had some riders say their first words on the horse because they have to communicate with the horse and tell them to go. And students who've had no vocalization will say 'go,' to get their horse walking," Sarnataro described. "We had one rider who was told they would never walk and now they're on a horse, independently riding by themselves."

She saw firsthand the beautiful animals providing something just as beautiful for their clients.

"The student will come up, and they might have had an extremely hard day, and maybe they're upset or running away, and the horse will stand there and wait patiently and sense what their student is feeling," said Sarnataro.

But since last year, Sarnataro said getting people back into the saddle has been no easy ride. Therapy riding sessions can only happen if there's enough staff to accommodate their riders, and she said raising funds has been a hurdle.

"We're slowly starting to rebuild with our students, volunteers, and instructors as well, so it's been a challenge coming back from that," she said. "Horses are expensive just to maintain their care and feeding, and paying staff is crucial to keep things running."

Typically, the center would be holding fundraisers at nearby breweries, wineries, and restaurants. Since the ongoing pandemic, they've had to think outside of the box with open house bake sales and coordinating family photo shoots with their horses for donations.

"We're okay with adapting to a hybrid system in case people aren't comfortable coming out or being in person, so we're flexible, so I feel the ranch is a good utilization for a fundraiser," said Sarnataro.

Their goal each year is around $20,000. The center hopes the community helps support their events, to continue changing lives through their center.

"I feel therapeutic riding is beneficial to all; just seeing all of this created before my eyes and the passion is just wonderful," she said.