On this nonprofit stable’s 21 acres, a gaggle of horses helps visitors with and without physical, mental, and emotional struggles expand their self-confidence, bolster social skills, and improve quality of life. Therapy is the center's primary mission, pursued via lessons tailored to each rider's pace and needs. Stroke patients, those with visual and hearing impairments, and people with depressive and autism-spectrum disorders are all welcome.
Centered riding combines classic principles of riding with body awareness, centering, and imagery. Certified instructors also use rider biomechanics in lessons for beginners to intermediate to help improve core strength, balance, and harmony with the horses.
Though not officially part of the center's therapy techniques, a host of additional programs use horseback riding to nurture mental and physical well-being. Offerings include Yoga on Horseback, Mommy and Me sessions, and Silver Saddle lessons, which are geared toward older riders and discerning horses looking to incorporate more bling into their wardrobes.
Aikido is the "loving protection of all beings," in the words of Morihei Ueshiba, who created the martial-arts style. Although it sometimes incorporates wooden weapons, at its heart, aikido seeks to act as a replacement for violence. Greg O'Connor, founder and chief instructor at Aikido Centers of New Jersey, brings Ueshiba's tenets to his students, who have included children and seniors, as well as members of the New Jersey State Police, the Department of Homeland Security, and the US Secret Service. O'Connor and more than 40 other instructors teach students self-defense tactics that redirect attacks, as well as more advanced methods that include wooden sword and staff training and aikido's dramatic falls and rolls.