MIDDLE ISLAND, N.Y. (FOX5NY.COM) - Simonette Lezama had never ridden a horse before until she joined a therapeutic riding program through Great Strides Long Island. The nonprofit offers horseback riding lessons to veterans and their immediate families free of charge.
"I always wanted to ride horses but could never afford it," Lezama said. "This program is everything."
The program, which so far has 13 veterans enrolled, includes taking care of, riding and interacting with the horses. It is offered seven days a week for an hour each time.
"We have veterans who watch their children ride or work with their children," executive director Julie Dell'Aria said. "It gives them an opportunity to learn something new and bond with the horses."
The horses in the program are a lot quieter and can essentially sense nerves and emotions of the riders to help make a deeper connection.
George Munoz is legally blind and hearing impaired. The Vietnam veteran also suffers from PTSD but said that riding puts his mind at ease.
"It's a way to relieve stress and anger you have. Not on the horse but the horse feels it. We work together."
They are working together to build strength and confidence.