(Leonia, NJ - December 11, 2023) - Local equestrian Paul Lim made history as the first participant and winner in the New Jersey Special Olympics to come from the Bergen Equestrian Center. Paul was able to clinch gold in both Class 10 Advanced Walk/Trot/Canter Equitation and Class 25 Advanced Walk/Trot/Canter Dressage. Paul’s journey, marked by an autism diagnosis and overcoming adversities, sheds light on the transformative influence of horses and the Bergen Equestrian Center on his life. 

At the age of 4, Paul was diagnosed with autism. During his high school years, he was faced with additional challenges, including encounters with bullying. Seeking solace, Paul’s family discovered at Garret Mountain Equestrian Center that he was able to form unique bonds with horses, and the stables became a haven where Paul was able to find comfort away from his everyday life.

As he began his equestrian career, Paul initially explored trail rides before moving on to formal lessons. Despite contending with cognitive challenges and poor muscle tone, Paul's commitment and tireless work ethic were evident in his daily routine—a rigorous exercise regimen of 5-6 days a week, two hours a day, complemented by daily riding exercises.

Paul joined the Bergen Equestrian Center after equestrian Anna Gassib initiated contact with Ridgefield High School in search of volunteers. Since then, Paul has remained an active volunteer at the Bergen Equestrian Center and intends to maintain his involvement in the future. 

After years of training, Paul was able to compete in the Special Olympics in October. He was 1 of only 2 participants from Bergen County. Acknowledging the center's pivotal role, Paul expressed gratitude to instructors Sabrina, Eloise, Melody, Ana, and others, such as his equine companion, Percy, who all played a crucial part in his success.

About Bergen County Equestrian Center:

The Bergen County Equestrian Center, established in 1974, is a multi service horse facility on 22 acres of landscaped land providing a home for over 75 horses at Overpeck County Park in Leonia, New Jersey, (minutes away from the GWB.) Amenities include 3 outdoor riding rings, 2 indoor riding rings air-conditioned tack rooms, heated lounge with a panoramic view of the main indoor arena for optimum horse show training.  Programs include children’s summer camp, after school classes, corporate team building and A Stable Life, which is an equestrian therapy program for families, small groups and individuals looking to heal their souls with the presence and interaction of the grace of a horse.  Dedicated and fully trained instructors and therapists work to ensure riders receive a positive riding experience and a unique physical and bond with a horse. The equestrian is also the home to Columbia University’s Man of War Program. Visit: Bergen County Equestrian Center at 40 Fort Lee Road, Leonia, NJ, Bergenequestrian.com or 201.336.3370


Pictured - Instructors Marietta Gaglione (left) and Danielle Seelenfreund (right) with Paul.

Photo courtesy of Sook Lim

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