News from the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners
Shanel Y. Robinson, Commissioner Director Ÿ Doug Singleterry, Commissioner Deputy Director
Sara Sooy, Commissioner Ÿ Melonie Marano, Commissioner Ÿ Paul M. Drake, Commissioner
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 8, 2023
Somerset County Welcomes “Rocking Horse Rehab” to the Stable at Lord Stirling Park
Equine Assisted Therapy Including Speech, Occupational, and Mental Health Services Offered for Residents Aged 2-21
SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Somerset County Park Commission held an open house on Saturday, June 3 to officially welcome “Rocking Horse Rehab” as a tenant of the Stable at Lord Stirling Park, where the two-decade old organization will offer equine assisted therapy for children and young adults. The addition of Rocking Horse Rehab is a continuation of the reimagining of the Stable following a pause in programming during the COVID crisis. The Stable offers services such as guided trail rides for the public, in addition to pony rides and grooming, dog walks, and more.
“It is so exciting to see this private/public partnership in action at the Stable at Lord Stirling Park, especially with an organization like Rocking Horse Rehab,” said Commissioner Sara Sooy at the open house. “This program bridges a therapeutic service gap while highlighting a Somerset County gemstone.”
At their February 14, 2023, meeting the Somerset County Board of Commissioners approved American Rescue Plan funding to make upgrades to the Stable in support of equestrian therapy services at the Stable. The funding went to constructing handicapped accessible public restrooms, outfitting a section of the Stable for housing the services, treatment and sensory rooms, and other necessary facility improvements necessary to serve this population.
The Somerset County Park Commission followed the County’s commitment with a request for proposals for equine therapy services that was eventually awarded to Rocking Horse Rehab in early spring. Rocking Horse had a “soft” opening in April after moving from the Essex County Stables and is now fully operational for existing and new clients.
“The Park Commission is absolutely excited to be back in the business of offering equine programming at the Stable at Lord Stirling Park,” said Park Commission President D.J. Hunsinger. “With our new partners at Rocking Horse Rehab joining our other programming, the Stable is truly accessible to all our visitors from Somerset County and surrounding communities.”
Rocking Horse Rehab offers an array of equine assisted therapies and traditional therapeutic programs. The organization’s mission is to enhance the quality of life of individuals with disabilities and their families by offering innovative opportunities for clinical, educational, and social development through equine assisted therapies and other alternative therapeutic programs. Their philosophy is to treat the “whole child” using the expertise of our specialized staff consisting of physical, speech, and occupational therapists, clinical social workers, therapeutic riding instructors, and music therapists.
In September of 2022 the Park Commission’s Lord Stirling Stable Advisory Group (LSSAG) presented a new vision for Lord Stirling Park that included restored Stable programming and extensive new trails and facilities. The comprehensive proposals have reopened the Stable, and will expand facilities, and connect existing resources throughout Lord Stirling Park in support of the County’s “parks for all” goals while supporting environmental and historic sites tourism.
Lord Stirling Park consists of 1,015 acres of beautiful parkland, natural waterways, historic buildings, and open space in northern Somerset County and is home to the Stable, the Environmental Education Center, and the Revolutionary War-era Boudinot Southard Farmstead. These resources have previously been operated independently of each other, and the plan proposes to connect them with expanded trails and paths, integrated programming, and newly developed community event spaces along Lord Stirling Road and at the Boudinot Southard Farmstead.
Participants at the opening of Rocking Horse Rehab at Lord Stirling Park included (l-r) Commissioners Sara Sooy, Melonie Marano, and Deputy Director Doug Singleterry; Chuck Rosen of the Park Commission Foundation; Lola Fennimore and Sheri Marino of Rocking Horse Rehab; and Parks Commission Secretary-Director Geoff Soriano.
Somerset County Park Commission
The Park Commission is committed to excellence in promoting stewardship of land and resources, providing outstanding recreation opportunities and leisure services, and fostering an environment that is service oriented and responsive to the public’s needs.
15,000 acres of county-owned open space, which is visited by two million park users each year have five golf courses, three driving ranges, a pitch and putt course and a recreational putting course. Other attractions include a riding stable, an environmental education center, two tennis facilities, an outdoor pool, paddle boating, a rock and rare plant garden, an award-winning rose garden, an arboretum, and a sensory and fragrance garden. Six county parks also offer amenities such as athletic fields, picnic facilities, bike paths, fishing, bird-watching, cross-country skiing, and hiking.
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