By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — MORRISONVILLE — Marie Postiglione-Dupell of Medicine Horse Farm believes horses are healing.
Her nonprofit farm, opened in 2007, specializes in equine therapy for people with physical, mental, developmental and medical disabilities. After a three-year process that was completed in May 2011, the facility became one of 800 equine centers certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International.
Medicine Horse Farm is also certified as a State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Day Habilitation facility.
Postiglione-Dupell, director of Medicine Horse and a PATH International certified instructor, travels around the country to receive training on new cutting-edge therapy techniques so she can stay up to date with the newest developments in equine therapy.
“We’re adjunct therapy to traditional therapy,” she said.
Many participants are referred by a physician, physical therapist, mental-health professional and other care providers.
Medicine Horse offers several different programs, including equine-assisted learning, vocational training, therapy riding, gardening, therapy-nature-based-assisted activities and equine-assisted therapy for veterans.
Medicine Horse will host its second-annual Monster Dash Run and Walk and Goblin Gallop Kids’ Run set for Sunday, Oct. 21, with proceeds going to raise money for a new building for the farm.
About 300 people participated in the event last year.
This year, the Plattsburgh State baseball team and the Clinton Community women’s soccer team have volunteered to dress as zombies.
“The community has just been really wonderful,” Postiglione-Dupell said.
Runners and walkers in the Monster Dash will wear flags that represent their “lives,” and the zombies will try to steal them. However, those who’d rather not be pursued by zombies, can choose not to wear flags.
The zombies are not meant to scare or hurt participants, just steal their “lives.”
While the set and props involved in the Monster Dash will be quite frightening, the Goblin Gallop will lead participants through an enchanted forest where all there is to fear is a headless horseman riding Thor, one of the therapy horses.
Postiglione-Dupell said the new indoor arena will cost $140,000. She already had it designed and is just waiting to raise enough money to begin construction. So far, she has saved $12,000 from fees at Medicine Horse and has put the money in a capital building fund.
The new facility will be temperature controlled, which would make it easier for some with disabilities to have therapy sessions, Postiglione-Dupell said.
“For our medically fragile folks, temperature affects their medical condition,” she said.
Another waiting area and bathroom would also be featured in the new building.
“Everything goes back into this,” Postiglione-Dupell said of the farm.
For the farm’s gardening program, everything is organic, “right down to the mulch, the compost,” which comes from the farm’s five horses, Postiglione-Dupell said.
Participants in this year’s program planted their own Three Sisters garden with pumpkins, peas and corn, a kind of Native American companion-planting technique using mounds.
The idea is that the three crops take care of each other just as the gardener takes care of them, Postiglione-Dupell said.
Participants were fully involved in the planting, tending and harvesting the crops from their garden. Broom corn was made into brooms that the participants will give away as Thanksgiving gifts. They also grew popping corn, sugar pumpkins for cooking and knucklehead pumpkins for carving.
“They’re present in the task,” she said of the participants. Garden therapy involves sensory stimulation, which helps keep them alert and focused, she said.
Many of Postiglione-Dupell’s participants have varying forms of autism and benefit from hands-on learning, along with working and learning from nature. Others who benefit from the therapy have such disabilities as cerebral palsy, attention deficit disorder, Down syndrome, mental retardation, muscular dystrophy, paralysis, stroke, traumatic brain injury and substance abuse issues.
Postiglione-Dupell limits the number of people receiving therapy to four per session to ensure participants get the most of their experience, she said.
She also writes individual service plans for each that include short- and long-term goals and objectives.
Postiglione-Dupell finds her work fulfilling and rewarding.
A few years ago, she supervised the therapy of eight sexually abused children.
Some of them would not speak to adults and didn’t want to be touched, but they would talk to the horses and let the horses touch them.
And as the trust between the children and horses grew, the children began to trust people again, Postiglione-Dupell said.
“It’s very powerful,” she said. “It’s a blessing to me that people let me be a part of their lives.”IF YOU GO The Monster Dash at Medicine Horse Farm, set for noon Sunday, Oct. 21, is a 5K race, and the Goblin Gallop Kids' Run is about 1 mile. First-, second- and third-place finishers will receive an award. Children 12 years old and younger who wish to participate in the Monster Dash must be accompanied by an adult of at least 18 years old. Children may take part in the Goblin Gallop without an adult. The registration fee is $15 for the Monster Dash and $10 for the Goblin Gallop. Costumes are highly encouraged. To register, go to www.medicinehorsefarm.org, print out the form and mail it with a check to Medicine Horse Farm, 38 Lizzies Lane, Morrisonville, NY, 12962. To register online, go to www.medicinehorsefarm.org and click on the link to active.com. For more information, call Marie at 566-7217.