'A Perfect Match'

At a therapeutic riding center in Boyds, horses are helping people with special needs discover their strengths and abilities

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David Godoy hugs and thanks his favorite horse, Del Boy, at the end of each therapeutic riding session. Then Godoy wraps his arms around Del Boy’s neck in order to help himself safely dismount. Photo by April Witt. 


A white MetroAccess van with a motorized lift to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters heads north past the dense subdivisions and clotted roadways of a suburbia chockablock with strip malls, big-box stores, dry cleaners and restaurants. The van and its passenger travel miles beyond all that to a spare landscape where pastures and barns outnumber subdivisions, and red-tailed hawks circle overhead.

The lone passenger in the van, David Godoy, 37, of Montgomery Village, is going to the Great and Small therapeutic riding center in Boyds, Maryland, to visit a horse. This is no ordinary meeting; it is a kind of communion.

The man and the horse each journeyed far to reach this patch of farmland where their fates, improbably, intertwined. Godoy, who has cerebral palsy, was born in Ecuador with physical deformities that made it difficult for him to stand or walk through much of his childhood. Kids in his small town mocked him. As a teen he had surgery to lengthen the muscles in his contorted legs, and he now walks with leg braces. To cover longer distances faster, Godoy rides a motorized scooter.


After his therapeutic horseback riding session, David Godoy waits for a MetroAccess van to take him home to Montgomery Village. Photo by April Witt. 


The mount Godoy has come to ride is a sturdy, grayish-white Connemara pony named Del Boy. Born in Ireland, Del Boy was brought to the United States in his youth and went on to compete successfully in horse shows. Now Del Boy, who is about 24, is too old for athletic contests focused on leaping barriers to win ribbons and silver cups. Last year he began a new career as a therapy horse.

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