Helping Hands on Horseback
Helping Hands on Horseback

Pegasus Farm Sensory Trail

Sensory Trail Experience

A sensory riding trail is a rich learning environment of woodland paths that consist of slopes, turns, varied footing, natural sights and sounds, and man-made "activity stations." This integrated environment challenges the students' balance, stimulates their senses and encourages them to interact with the world around them.

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Activity stations are themed stopping points along the trail that offer students the opportunity to see, hear, smell, touch and talk about the items they encounter. Located in an expansive woodland area at the northeast corner of Pegasus Farm's 22-acre property, our sensory trail includes five activity stations and seven marked trails.

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Thanks in large part to a tremendous volunteer effort by Tauck, a travel company in Norwalk whose employees spent a whole day in October 2011 developing several activity stations, the sensory trail is a fun and therapeutically vital part of our programs at the farm (see "Special Thanks" below for more on Tauck's incredible contribution to our mission).

Following is an overview of our sensory trail activity stations: 

Sniff and Smell

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The Sniff and Smell activity station invites students to reach out and open wooden "scent boxes" mounted at rider height, then explore and discuss the fragrant objects within. 

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Since each activity station is designed to maximize sensory opportunities, some of the scent boxes may contain jars of dried beans and other textured items for students to dig through in search of a “prize,” such as a scratch-and-sniff sticker.

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In addition, the Sniff and Smell activity station features a potted herb garden whose aromas and textures engage students’ senses of smell and touch. The herb garden also provides opportunities for students to talk about cooking and other everyday household activities.

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Snake Hill Steering

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The Snake Hill Steering activity station features real road signs, several “obstacles,” and varied terrain. Students follow their instructors’ directions to stop, start and steer their horses through the course, which may include such actions as traveling over a bridge, winding around an S-curve, walking through a gravel bed, or halting at a dead end. 

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Snake Hill Steering provides opportunities for students to improve their bilateral coordination, reading and cognition skills, strength and auditory discrimination. This expansive activity station also mimics many real-life situations, such as how a four-way intersection works, how to back out of a parking space (on a horse, no less!), and what yielding means.

Turtle Rock Touch and Try

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Named for "Rocky," the unofficial mascot of the Pegasus Farm sensory trail, the Turtle Rock Touch and Try activity station features a wide variety of sports-inspired activities (see "Special Thanks" below for more on Rocky and his creator, artist Siri Kent).

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Designed to help improve balance, eye/hand and bilateral coordination, tactile defensiveness and cognition, the Touch and Try station includes tether balls, a foam noodle “wall” to ride through, a wooden footbridge, ground poles on an incline, and other activities that offer physical input. As with all activity stations, Touch and Try also incorporates colors, counting and other developmental concepts at a level appropriate for each student.

Making Music

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The Making Music activity station is a feast for the ears that also helps students improve their coordination, balance, core strength and grasp/release skills. The primary sensory focus is auditory discrimination, which includes conversations about which instruments are loudest/quietest or highest-pitched/lowest-pitched.

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Thanks to artist Matt Frieburghaus (pictured above), the Making Music station includes a handmade set of wooden percussion chimes (see “Special Thanks” below for more about Matt and his wife, Laura Kaufman, who also created art for the sensory trail). In addition, students can serenade their horses with bells, maracas, drums and several other handheld instruments.

Woodland Village

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Built by Eagle Scout and Pegasus volunteer Matthew Posa, the houses of our Woodland Village are mounted at rider height in a large circle on the sensory trail (see "Special Thanks" below for more information about Matthew's Eagle Scout projects for Pegasus). The Woodland Village is a versatile activity station that can be used for a variety of purposes. Students can discuss the houses themselves, identify the objects within them, and play a matching game with similar objects placed around the village. The therapeutic benefits of the Woodland Village are as versatile as the miniature buildings within it. As students open and close the doors, they can work on improving their language skills, fine motor coordination, visual scanning and auditory discrimination.

Green Trail

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The Green Trail features a gentle slope and lots of "hidden" critters for students to discover along the way. Activities along this "I Spy" trail focus on color/shape identification, visual scanning skills, and verbalization.

Quiet Trail

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Located by itself off to the left of the sensory trail's main entrance, the Quiet Trail is just that: a tranquil activity-free zone for students who benefit from a ride through a calm, natural setting.

Additional Sensory Trail Benefits

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Each of the activity stations and trails is designated by a specific color and shape such as a red ladybug or a green leaf. The colors and shapes correspond to a master trail map that instructors can use to offer students more learning and decision-making opportunities. Instructors can refer to particular station areas by color and shape, and students can use the map system to make choices about which stations they want to visit. This additional layer of activities helps students improve their identification, recognition, memory and recall skills.

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While navigating the trail, students are not only invited to stop and encounter the sensory experiences, they must also concentrate on riding itself: steering the horse, maintaining proper positioning, transitioning into a half-seat when riding up an incline or stepping over logs, and leaning back in the saddle when riding down a hill. These activities address the rider’s balance, visual skills, left/right discrimination and language proficiency. In combination with the sensory experiences, these challenging equestrian components make riding the sensory trail a comprehensive activity.

SPECIAL THANKS:

It took the vision of many minds and the work of many hands to create our sensory trail. We have the following people to thank for their incredible contributions:

Tauck World of Giving: In October 2011, nearly 50 volunteers from Tauck partnered with the HomeFront program of Stamford to help transform the sensory trail and build blue-and-white cavalettis for the arena. The volunteers developed three activity stations along the trail: the Sniff and Smell station, the Woodland Village station, and the Snake Hill Steering station. They also groomed a large portion of the sensory trail and laid down many tons of fresh cedar mulch. Click below to view a fun slide show of Tauck's day at the farm and the horses' reactions to the new stations the first time they were introduced to them.

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Siri Kent: Siri is the talented local artist who created Rocky the Turtle out of a large bare boulder in the middle of the trail system.

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Matt Frieburghaus and Laura Kaufman: Matt and Laura live on Peach Lake across from Pegasus Farm and have lent their unique artistic expertise to our sensory trail. Matt created a set of large wooden percussion chimes for our Making Music activity station. Laura created a group of "tree skirts" made of various materials such as tennis balls, plastic tubing and soft foam. The tree skirts not only provide visual and tactile interest for our students, they also encourage them to engage their muscles and motor skills when reaching out to touch the skirts. To view other works by Laura and Matt, visit laurakaufmanstudio.com and mattfrieburghhaus.com.

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Matthew Posa: In 2015, program volunteer and aspiring Eagle Scout Matthew Posa approached us about completing a service project at Pegasus Farm. Matthew’s project involved work on our sensory trail. He constructed five sensory boxes for the Woodland Village, a beautiful kiosk to house trail maps, and a pool noodle curtain. He also refreshed the paint on Rocky the Trail Turtle’s huge boulder of a shell. The multi-faceted project involved research, planning and construction, as well as a fair amount of fundraising to offset the costs. Generous contributors included equestrian Georgina Bloomberg, founder of The Rider’s Closet, and legendary talk show host David Letterman. After a well-received letter from Matthew, Mr. Letterman invited him to his New York office, where Matthew’s presentation about Pegasus and the trail project inspired him to make a thoughtful contribution. Matthew’s work to update, revamp and provide new additions to the sensory trail environment will have significant positive impact on our participants’ riding experiences..

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Melissa Merendino: Melissa is an artist and a longtime friend of Pegasus. She painted a set of beautiful birdhouses built by students at B.O.C.E.S. and placed en route to the sensory trail for students to enjoy as they ride by.
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For further information on our sensory trail, contact the Program Admin Office at (845) 669-8235 x115 or program@pegasustr.org.

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