What could make a parent happier than seeing their physically challenged child take their first horseback ride and then devour a cookie dough ice cream? This heavenly dream is made possible at Hidden Hollow Farms Riding Center & Letti’s Ice Cream in Milan, NY. The mission of the farm is to provide a safe, educational and pleasurable therapeutic riding facility for people with or without disabilities. “Thanks to Hidden Hollow, I'm able to ride for the first time since last year. If it had been any other barn, I would never have been able to get back on a horse this soon after surgery. They helped me get my life back,” said rider Serena Kathleen.
The farm was established in 1990, and is family owned and operated. “The farm has flourished into a wonderful place for individuals and families to come and learn about our equine friends,” said Stephanie Weber Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Hidden Hollow Farm. Stephanie is a graduate of the Cheff Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan and is certified as a therapeutic riding instructor. She is also a coach and clinician for the NYS Special Olympics, and the farm has hosted both the regional and state competitions for the New York Special Olympics. “We are very proud that our riders have come home with gold and silver medals. A Hidden Hollow Farm rider has even attended the Special Olympics' World Games and brought home silver for the USA,” said Stephanie.
The students range in age from 2 1/2 to 83 years old. The farm has several riders from The Anderson School for Autism, The Devereux Foundation, and New Horizons Resources and offers programs for riders of all abilities. “Everyone gets a chance here no matter how much money or experience, no matter their abilities,” said rider Katie Stone.
The Working Together Horses and Heroes Program was specifically designed for police, fire fighters, EMS, veterans and their families and offers them an opportunity to ride for free. The therapeutic value of horses has been recognized for centuries, dating back to when they were used to carry wounded warriors from the battlefield. The Harness Your Healing With Horses was created for victims of crimes such as domestic violence or rape and gives them the experience of being around animals and also ride for free. “Horses make great companions for psychotherapy because they can mirror and respond to human behavior, and there’s no judgment with a horse.” said Psychology Today.
Currently, there are seven horses in the Program and many more horses board. Woodstock (Woody) is a barn favorite! He is an aged chestnut Quarter Horse gelding, and he does it all from beginner lessons to cross country. Gizmo is a 16-year-old Palamino Welsh pony gelding. He is an all around pony who can do walk or trot lessons, cross country and fox hunting!
“Getting a child or adult on a horse for the first time can be a challenge, but the rewards are endless. An autistic 8-year-old girl spoke for the first time when she was riding at the farm,” said Stephanie. Hidden Hollow’s new goal is to raise $60,000 to install an indoor riding ring so that the farm can operate all year. “I have a student with cerebral palsy who feels so much better when she is riding, and I want to make this possible regardless of the weather.” Ice cream might be the answer! Letti’s Ice Cream, lovingly named after the farm’s first cow, was launched by Stephanie four years ago to help raise money for the farm.
Originally, Letti’s Ice Cream came in just a few flavors and was only sold at the farm and a few farmers’ markets. Today, there are crazy, creative flavors like Caramel Sea Salt, English Bits with Toffee, and Vanilla Chai, with plans to introduce a Blueberry Lavender in the spring. The Vanilla Chai combines black pepper, clove, allspice and ginger while the Brownie Delight has hunks of homemade brownies. For a lighter delight, there are sorbets and sorbet pops to suck on during those scorching summer days. All of the ice creams have a vanilla base and the flavors are whisked in by hand. The fresh cream is from the Hudson Valley and the vanilla comes from the Amish and has no alcohol. The ice creams can now be found at the Stone Barn, Heirloom Cafe, Big Rock Farm Market and Uncle Sam’s Canteen.
Stephanie recently purchased an old school bus which her husband is restoring. Letti’s bus will be chock full of these ambrosial ice creams as it travels to area horse shows, farmers’ markets, birthday parties and weddings. It is Stephanie’s dream to make the equine world accessible to everyone, regardless of any challenges, and it never hurts to end the day with a big, sloppy ice cream cone!
Some of the location you can find Letti's ice cream at the following locations:
If you would like to learn more about Hidden Hollow Farms or make a donation click here