Hidden Acres expands reach with pilot program

Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center Program Director Jeanna Pellino, left, instructor Rebecca Caruso, right front, and volunteer Nancy Kennedy lead 9-year-old Noah Nadhazi on a ride in 2012 at the center in Naugatuck. The center is initiating a pilot program this month for Naugatuck teens suffering from depression and/or anxiety disorders.  –FILE PHOTO

Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center Program Director Jeanna Pellino, left, instructor Rebecca Caruso, right front, and volunteer Nancy Kennedy lead 9-year-old Noah Nadhazi on a ride in 2012 at the center in Naugatuck. The center is initiating a pilot program this month for Naugatuck teens suffering from depression and/or anxiety disorders. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The new year will bring a new initiative at Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center.

Hidden Acres, located on 45 acres at the end of Gabriel Drive, has provided therapeutic equine-assisted activities to people with physical, emotional or developmental disabilities since the nonprofit was founded in 2008. This month, the riding center is starting a new pilot program.

The program, Partnering with Horses, is specifically designed to serve Naugatuck teens suffering from depression and/or anxiety disorders. 

The program was started due to the significant number of inquiries the center receives each week to help children and adults suffering from mental health challenges, Hidden Acres Program Director Jeanna Pellino said.

“We recognize the need for these types of services and want to be actively involved in creating a safe and supportive environment in our community to those dealing with these daily struggles,” Pellino said.

The six-week program will focus on the benefits provided by the human-animal connection.

“Horses are sensitive and intuitive animals by nature and learning about the way in which they interact with each other and with people provides lessons in trust-based relationship building, communication self-awareness including shifting perspective through reframing,” Pellino said.

Six Naugatuck teenagers will take part in the pilot program. The teens received full scholarships to participate in the program due to the support of the Saunders Fund and subsidies from the center, according to Pellino.

The classes will run for 90 minutes and will be conducted by equine and emotional wellness professionals, therapy horses and trained volunteers. 

“Our purpose is to make sure the kids get involved in activities that are positive and foster self-awareness and self-esteem,” Pellino said.

Once the pilot program comes to end, it will be reviewed. Pellino said the center hopes to expand on the program in the year ahead.

“Our goal in the coming year is to expand these types of services beyond this six-week program to include younger children, veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and individuals that have suffered loss or abuse and other emotional challenges,” Pellino said.

Anyone who knows someone that is suffering from anxiety and depression that may benefit from the program, or is interested donating or volunteering, call Hidden Acres for more information at (203) 723-0633, email hiddenacres2@gmail.com or visit www.hiddenacrestrc.org.

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