Cross-country horseback riders welcomed in Milford

| 20 Aug 2015 | 02:19

By Ginny Privitar
— Horsewoman Bianca Scarano is fulfilling a dream. She and her traveling partner, Noah Stellarious, are passionate about equine therapy, and are raising awareness by riding and walking across the country with horses Jessie and Chief and canine pal Cooper.

She hopes to raise $50,000 in five months to get her Dala Center for Therapeutic Riding and Equine-assisted Learning off the ground in Bonsall, Calif., and, at the same time, provide 12 scholarships for foster care youth at the center.

They started out in Rhinebeck, where Scarano once lived, and stopped for their first night at Jukas Stables in Orange County, N.Y. Then they were off to Pike County, averaging between 10 to 20 miles a day.

They stopped in Dingman and Milford, where they met Milford residents Doris and Ray Boukenooghe at the GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center, where Doris is a volunteer. The four bonded instantly, and the Boukenooghes helped them with shopping, laundry, media alerts, photography, and Facebook postings under “Bianca Scarano," where anyone can follow their progress.

Doris said they want to help Scarano raise awareness and, to that end, they've also contributed financially to the cause.

“Doris and Ray have been amazing," Scarano said. "They’re so helpful. We keep in touch every couple of nights.”

While at GAIT, Scarano found additional inspiration.

“That place was very impressive to me,” she said, “I’ve visited many therapeutic riding programs. Martha from GAIT is a kind and inspirational woman who has a very unique program, which includes two kinds of labyrinths — one for those in wheelchairs, and one you can ride through with a horse and side walkers. It’s amazing. She’s doing some things there that other programs don’t offer.”

Scarano couldn’t say enough nice things about the people she's met in Pike County.

"People wanted to take us in and feed us," she said. "They meet us on the trail and bring us food. Park Rangers have been bringing us cold water.”

And they dined in luxury.
“Sean from the Delmonico Room at the Hotel Fauchère heard about us and passed us on Sunday morning," she said. "He invited us for brunch, and we had an amazing breakfast. It was so delicious and we needed the nutrition."

Making connectionsScarano said the idea for the project was also to bring people together.

“We can connect in person," she said. "Everything doesn’t have to be on computers and iPhones and texting.”

Although they've only just started their journey, the positive response they've gotten so far has brought them a lot of hope and positive feelings.

Last winter, Scarano moved to Bonsall, Calif., where she rents space on a ranch that she hopes to be able to purchase in the near future. She had three of her horses shipped from her former home in Rhinebeck to the ranch and returned east to ride the other two there. She and Noah had planned to bisect the country on the American Discovery Trail, but because of weather and other concerns, they'll be taking some detours.

Now near the Delaware Water Gap, they’ll soon be on their way to Maryland and Washington, D.C. Scarano expects to start training volunteers within the next 30 days and open Dala’s doors when school is in session.

“We have location, horses, internationally certified ridding instructors, and mental health professionals — everything is ready to go," she said.

Camping outIn the meantime, they’re spending a lot of time in sleeping bags and a tent. Wednesday night, Aug. 19, was a little difficult, she said.

“Right now we’re in a tent, and it’s raining, and we’re damp," she said.

She stayed outside with the horses during the storm to calm them.

“I’m married to my horses," she said. "My horses and dogs are my babies.”

With years of experience as a large and small animal veterinary assistant, Scarano has the skills to take care of most of her horses’ needs, and a veterinarian friend to call for advice.

They’re headed to the home of a friend who will put them up for a few nights while they work on publicizing their trip and notifying local media. “That will give us an opportunity to sleep on a mattress, too,” Scarano said.

Equine therapy can help with mental, emotional and physical challenges, Scarano said. Her goal is “to provide affordable services for children and adults with and without disabilities. You don’t need to have a clinically diagnosed disability to avail yourself of the services.”

She said horses are powerful aids in therapy, and can help with emotional problems, depression, self-esteem, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress, autism, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome. It is even used in team building exercises for corporate groups.

The Dala Center for Therapeutic Riding and Equine-assisted Learning is looking for sponsors and donations. You can help them meet their goal by donating at