BERNARDS TWP., NJ -- Horseback riding is a medically proven form of physical -- and even mental -- therapy, and area residents will have an opportunity this September to assist as part of the therapeutic riding program coming up at Lord Stirling Stable, whether or not they have riding experience.

The Somerset County Park Commission Therapeutic Recreation Department and Lord Stirling Stable are seeking volunteers to assist with the T.R.A.I.L.S (Therapeutic Recreation Adapted Instruction at Lord Stirling) program.

The instruction begins on Tuesday, Sept. 10, and Wednesday, Sept. 11, at the Somerset County-owned Lord Stirling Stable, 256 S. Maple Ave., Basking Ridge.Two class options are available each evening, from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and from 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m..

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Volunteers are free to choose either or both sessions, but must attend training/orientation prior to the start of the program. Volunteers need not have equestrian experience but must be age 18 or older (17 year olds will be considered if they have previous experience with horses). They also should have a desire to help individuals enjoy a recreational activity that they otherwise would have no opportunity to experience. 

The T.R.A.I.L.S. program consists of ten weekly riding lessons led by Chris Jones, a seasoned instructor with years of experience in adapted riding. T.R.A.I.L.S. takes place at Lord Stirling Stable, and provides an opportunity for children and adults with developmental disabilities to learn the basics of horseback riding at a level adapted to their individual needs. 

Volunteers will serve either as a ‘side walker’ providing support, balance, and reinforcement of instruction or a ‘lead walker. The success of the program is due in large part to the volunteers, working with trained staff, to support each of the students.

Individuals interested in volunteering may call the Therapeutic Recreation Department at 908-526-5650 or NJ Relay at 711 for individuals with a hearing or speech impairment. Information is also available at www.somersetcountyparks.org.