Riding to the Top, a therapeutic horseback riding center in Windham, celebrated 25 years Oct. 13 with its annual Triple B: Boots, Band and BBQ, raising more than $165,000.

“We have a full house,” said Executive Director Sarah Bronson, “and this is a hugely generous crowd.”

At Riding to the Top, nearly 100 Mainers with a range of disabilities – from mental health issues to brain injury, cerebral palsy and stroke – ride or otherwise interact with one of the 18 horses each week.

“For so many people with mental or physical challenges, this is an equalizer,” said physical therapist Patty Carton, co-founder of Riding to the Top. “The emotional intelligence that the horse has allows them to communicate with humans, and I think they have an incredible ability to know who they are with in terms of taking care of them or challenging them. The horses are incredibly sensitive. It always amazes me.”

“Tonight is the culmination of so much hard work throughout the year,” said instructor Marissa LaGassey, who started as a volunteer at age 13. “Three days ago, this was a riding arena, and now it’s an amazing venue.”

Nearly 100 volunteers put 800 hours of work into the Triple B, where 400 supporters enjoyed DennyMike’s barbecue, an auction and a country-style dance party with the band Under the Covers. “My grandfather had a farm when I was a kid, so I always had horses in my life,” said volunteer Barbara Foster of Buxton. “And there are always people with challenging lives. Seeing them with the horses is special.”

“It’s nice to know we’re helping make a change in the community for people who have disabilities,” said Michael Doherty of Scarborough, volunteering with his St. Joseph’s College baseball teammates.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

filed under: