NAUGATUCK — Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center is almost ready to ride inside.
The center, a nonprofit located at the end of Gabriel Drive that provides therapeutic equine-assisted activities to people with physical, emotional or developmental disabilities, is in the midst of constructing an indoor arena so sessions can be held no matter the weather.
Ground was broken on the arena, which will be about 60 feet in diameter, in April 2013. Construction is expected to be finished by the end of February.
“The whole process is taking longer than we anticipated. Overall it’s going very well and we’re so excited,” Hidden Acres Program Director Jeanna Pellino said.
Since the start of construction, a bathroom and a small meeting room have been added to plans and will be built on the side of the arena.
Originally the arena was expected to cost approximately $75,000. However, with the expansion the final cost will be $130,000. Pellino said the organization has raised all the money it needs to build the arena, but is still raising money for the meeting room and bathroom.
However, the additions will be worth it, Pellino said.
“Everything will be heated. So it will make a big difference in us being able to provide consistency of services throughout the year, regardless of what Mother Nature doles out, which, in New England, can change by the minute,” Pellino said.
Consistency of service is a key element for the programs Hidden Acres provides.
“A lot of our participants’ goals are identified when they come. So we develop a program for them. The benefits can vary from learning goals to physical gains. It could be sensory or behavioral. The progress they make is much higher, much stronger, much more consistent if they come on a weekly basis and are able to pick up where they left off the week before,” Pellino said. “Without the covered arena space, if their goals tied into the physical component such as riding, then that continuity might stop for two or three weeks and then pick up again. So you are making three steps forward and two steps back,”
Pellino added the arena will provide a quite space where children with emotional problems can work.
“If we have multiple things going on in the barn we really have to look at is there too much activity? Can we provide them with that quieter space? If it rains or snows and we all can’t use that same space together, that means we have to make decisions about who’s going to miss a week. This is going to eliminate that challenge,” Pellino said.
Pellino said the arena also will offer space for people to handle their emotions before ever riding a horse.
“We do a lot with people to help reduce anxiety or reinforce life skills or reinforce what positive behaviors are. They work with horses mostly individually. The horses are thinking, feeling beings that are really very much in the moment. They react based on how others present themselves. If someone comes and is very anxious the horses might react to that. It opens a door to having a discussion and then work on the behavior,” Pellino said.
Hidden Acres was founded in 2008. In the beginning the nonprofit served up to five riders a week. Now, the organization has 45 participants a week.
Pellino said the indoor arena will allow Hidden Acres to continue helping more people.
“I believe [the arena] will increase the numbers we serve and the type of programming that we’re allowed to incorporate,” Pellino said.