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Pony Power relies heavily on volunteers. Horse experience is always a plus but not a requirement. Please call 201-934-1001 to volunteer.

lenges. A lifelong equestrian, founder and executive director Dana Spett, M.S.W., discovered therapeutic horseback riding while researching alternative treatment protocols for one of her daughters with mild special needs. Spett launched Pony Power with one horse and four riders. Today the nonprofit serves approximately 150 clients per week, and its mission encompasses much more than horseback riding. While the majority of clients are individual riders with a variety of special needs who come weekly for a half-hour riding lesson, a growing number are coming to Pony Power through area schools to ride and participate in horsemanship- and farm-centered activities. “Pony Power has broadened the scope of service and makes the student experience more meaningful,” says Marvin Leiken, executive director of the Children’s Therapy Center and principal of

the Fair Lawn campus. “They have created opportunities to incorporate such concepts as colors, counting, letters and shapes, and further defined their therapeutic services by also integrating language and communication goals and fine motor goals into the existing program.” Still others have found their way to Pony Power to participate in its Stable Insights program, an equine-assisted growth and learning initiative for individuals, families and groups. Led by licensed clinical social worker Bonnie Malajian, this shortterm intervention uses horses in ground activities designed to enable emotional growth and behavioral change. “Equine-assisted growth and learning often has a tremendous impact for clients who have become ‘stuck’ in traditional ‘talk’ therapy,” notes Malajian, a Pony Power staff member and private therapist based in Ridgewood. She witnessed first-

hand the powerful effects of using horses when her son made a breakthrough in his struggle to overcome substance abuse. A longtime rider herself, Malajian became a certified practitioner through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) in 2007. “Patterns and responses to frustration, challenges and triggers naturally unfold as clients work with the horses,” Malajian explains. “New productive ways of thinking and responding then emerge, leading to a sense of empowerment.” “What separates Pony Power’s Stable Insights program from other approaches is the unusual and magical way that the horse mirrors our behavior, making us dig deep and find the resources to heal within ourselves instead of letting someone else tell us what to do,” says a college student grappling with an eating disorder who recently participated in Stable Continued on pg. 42

BC The Magazine // November/December 2013


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