Reuniting With an Old Friend

Anne Cabot, who co-founded the Topfield Equestrian Center, is riding for the first time since she lost her sight.

Anne Cabot, who co-founded the Topfield Equestrian Center, is riding for the first time since she lost her sight.

Equestrian center co-founder rides again

Anne Cabot talked and smiled as Ola, the Norwegian fjord workhorse she considers an “old friend,” recently carried her around the oval-shaped indoor arena at Topfield Equestrian Center in Philipstown. 

Wendy Terebesi, Topfield’s horse trainer, held the reins as she led Ola, and Amy Berg, a volunteer, walked alongside with Sarah Uzelac, the executive director. 

Cabot has spent a life carrying others: providing the land that holds the center, and the neighboring Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming and Stonecrop Gardens; and supporting other conservation efforts in Philipstown with money and time. 

But now, on Feb. 11, she was being carried — not just by Ola, owned by her family for 25 years — but by Topfield, the organization she co-founded to provide therapeutic riding lessons to children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities. 

Nearly three years ago, Cabot, 93, lost her sight, as well as her ability to mount a horse for the first time since her parents introduced her to a pony at 3 years old. Her return to riding this year is a product of prodding by friends and the existence of the center whose board she still chairs. 

“All the more reason to get back on once I was blind,” said Cabot, referring to Topfield. “I never would have if this hadn’t been here.” 

Cabot had already lost sight in one eye when the vision in the other disappeared at the beginning of the pandemic. It happened “suddenly,” she recalled, on the day she moved into a one-room cottage in a retirement community in Connecticut. Cabot returned to Philipstown after spending one night there. 

Her figure atop Ola is a victory for Cabot’s friends, who had been urging her to get back on a horse. Several times last year, she tried to mount from the ground but could not.

At the center, she can be lifted onto Ola, part of a herd of Norwegian fjord ponies Cabot and her husband bought from a man in New Jersey after falling in love with the breed during a trip to Norway. 

Having Ola at Topfield helped because he is already familiar with Cabot’s body and because older horses tend to be calmer, said Uzelac. “She served us for so long; now we get to serve her,” she said. “It’s really wonderful.” 

Cabot is still giving to Topfield. Equipment that she owns will be used to launch a program offering lessons in driving horse-drawn carts. It is a part of equestrianism that has been difficult for people with disabilities to access, said Uzelac. 

“What Ann has made available here, I can’t tell you how many times a week people just marvel that this is for their child or for their family member,” she said.

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