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City's Long-Delayed Therapeutic Horse-Riding Arena Opens in Ocean Breeze

By Nicholas Rizzi | May 2, 2016 11:12am
 The city opened the Ocean Breeze Riding Arena Friday, which broke ground in 2014.
Ocean Breeze Riding Arena
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OCEAN BREEZE — A long-delayed indoor horse riding arena for people with disabilities has finally opened.

The Parks Department revealed the $5.8 million Ocean Breeze Riding Arena, which has stables, grooming areas, a lobby and observational room for visitors, on Friday. It broke ground in 2014.

"I am so proud of this facility," Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver said.

The facility will be the new headquarters for Helping Others Overcome Personal Handicaps (HOOPH), a therapeutic riding program that offers physical and occupational therapy for people ages 3 to 21 with issues ranging from mild learning disabilities to autism, head injuries, muscular dystrophy or other health challenges, according to the agency's website. 

Previously, HOOPH could only run its program during the warmer months and had to suspend its programming in the winter but now can provide year-round services for its 60 to 80 clients.

"We really wanted to make it a more day-to-day place that would impact people's lives on an everyday basis," said Megan Delmar, program director for HOOPH. "With the use of this year-round facility our possibilities are now endless."

Each client accepted into the HOOPH program gets a weekly 30-minute session with horses that can help improve their posture, strengthen their muscles, boost patience and more, the group said. Recent success for the program include helping an 11-year-old girl speak for the first time, Delmar said.

The sessions have one to two volunteers walk alongside the horse to help clients stay on if necessary until they can maintain their own balance, the group said.

The design for the facility started in 2012 but had to be pushed back after Hurricane Sandy ripped through the neighborhood. The city made several improvements to increase the resiliency of the building after the storm, including raising it 10 feet above the flood plain line, Department of Design and Construction commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora said.

"We immediately reassessed our design to make sure that this facility would not be taken by the natural elements,"  Peña-Mora said.

The Ocean Breeze Riding Arena sits next to the Ocean Breeze Track and Field building, which opened in 2015. They make up the new Ocean Breeze Park on a plot of land that was formerly part of a meadow, according to the Parks Department.