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Meet Our Riders

Meet GallopNYC rider, Leah Kest

“GallopNYC has not only helped me become my own person, but it has also given me a purpose and a reason to ‘Walk On’.”

Shortly after she was born, Leah was diagnosed with polio and by age 2, she was regularly involved with traditional physical therapy to help to develop greater mobility, strength and motor control.  Fortunately, when Leah was 6, her mother found GallopNYC, and since then, Leah has never looked back.

Originally shy, withdrawn, and anxious, Leah had difficulty walking and relied on both leg braces and crutches.  But over a short amount of time in therapeutic riding, Leah’s love of horses motivated her to open up to her GalloNYC PATH certified instructors, and work with them as a team to get the most out of her sessions.  Not only was she gaining muscular strength and control, she was developing confidence and trust.  

Now 18, Leah competes in the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities on the GallopNYC Equestrian Team, and won Grand Champion this spring. She now moves independently and walks without leg braces.  She was her high school’s prom queen!  And in the fall she will be attending Morrisville State College to study Equine Sciences with a minor in Therapeutic Horsemanship.

“GallopNYC has inspired me to study what I love and help others as they have helped me.”

Because of generous donors like you, GallopNYC provides the benefits of therapeutic horsemanship to hundreds of riders like Leah each week.  GallopNYC has a special commitment to serving children with disabilities from low-income families, providing over 80% of riders with need-based fee waivers.  GallopNYC has provided therapeutic riding lessons to Leah throughout her years in our program at no cost to her mother.

Your support means a child can develop greater fine motor control, gain verbal skills, become more empathic and engaged, develop verbal skills, gain core strength – benefits that carry over to their lives in vital ways so that they can live a fully and productively as possible.  Believe in Ability and support our Hamptons Half Marathon 


Meet GallopNYC rider, Jariel Vega

“As a parent of a child with special needs it can be difficult to find a place or activity that he can really enjoy that will help him grow. We found that place at GallopNYC for Jariel.” – Sheila Moqute, Jariel’s mother.

Jariel is a bright 6-year-old boy with a high IQ and brilliant grades in school.  But Jariel struggles in the areas of socialization, motor control, sensory processing and speech. He came to GallopNYC at the age of 5 to begin therapeutic riding. His weekly riding lessons have made a significant difference his life.

“GallopNYC is helping our child grow in so many ways – emotionally, physically, and socially. Jariel has more strength in his body and better coordination, he is more confident with himself and what is capable of doing, but most importantly he has the opportunity to interact with new friends and of course the horses.”

Jariel now competes in the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities on the GallopNYC Equestrian Team where he gets excited to demonstrate the skills he has learned. His love for horses has helped him gain confidence and the courage to try new things. He enjoys socializing with his side walkers, teammates, and even likes to talk to the judge at the shows. He keeps everyone laughing, smiling, and in good spirits. Jariel has made a real connection to the horses.  He loves to trot, take photos with his horse and he welcomes new challenges.

Because of generous donors like you, GallopNYC provides the benefits of therapeutic horsemanship to hundreds of riders like Jariel each week.  GallopNYC has a special commitment to serving children with disabilities from low-income families, providing over 80% of riders with need-based fee waivers. 

Your support means a child can develop greater fine motor control, gain verbal skills, become more empathic and engaged, develop verbal skills, gain core strength – benefits that carry over to their lives in vital ways so that they can live a fully and productively as possible

Read more about Jariel in a feature article in El Diario here.

Meet GallopNYC rider, Noah Mehegan

Meet Noah, a nine-year old charmer with an inquisitive mind and a strong connection with horses. Noah’s love for horses is obvious—but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, when Noah first came to GallopNYC less than a year ago, PATH Int’l certified instructor Leslie Lewis had to act quickly when Noah saw his first horse and made a bolt for the exit.  That first lesson, he wanted nothing to do with the horses, nor with the staff and instructors.  But Leslie’s encouragement and the horse’s gentleness coaxed him into the saddle. Today he’s unstoppable!

Noah’s riding skills have progressed quickly and he has developed an understanding of some of the more complex equestrian concepts as well as a strong awareness of the physical cues he is giving his horse.  Through riding, his motor planning skills and balance have rapidly improved, and he shows great aptitude for any equestrian challenge presented to him. Noah asks questions that reveal his perceptiveness, curiosity and tenacity. And he truly empathizes with the horses, especially his favorite mare in Forest Hills, Popcorn.

Equally important, Noah’s success in the riding arena is carrying over to his success in the classroom.  Noah, who has learning challenges, is more focused in school, more willing to ask questions, and participate in discussions.  Only a year ago he tended to be reserved and shy in school, but his mother and teachers have witnessed tremendous growth in his socialization skills and confidence; allowing him to realize his full potential in many important aspects  of his life.

When presented with the opportunity to challenge himself even further by participating in the GallopNYC Equestrian Team, Noah leapt at the chance.  One of the youngest members of our team and competing in a division with older, more experienced riders,  Noah maintained  poise, self-awareness, skill, and a big smile throughout the summer show season. He demonstrated sportsmanship far beyond his years. “I’m bursting with pride when I watch Noah ride and see how far he has progressed in such a short time,” says Leslie Lewis. “I see great things ahead for Noah, the possibilities are endless!”