What Makes Us Unique
Bit-By-Bit is both an American Hippotherapy Association Registered Facility and a PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) Accredited Therapeutic Riding Center specializing in speech, occupational and physical therapies.
Bit by Bit is made up of a team of 15-20 passionate and dedicated physical,
occupational, and speech therapists, PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors, allied health student interns and support staff. Our committed Board of Directors meets monthly in order to ensure the success of our charitable mission.
We have the pleasure of working with hundreds of volunteers each year and are thankful for their service.
Meet Out Staff
Denise Panariello MS, OTR/L
Denise has been working with children and families since 1996 in the mental health field. Denise received her Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology in 2003 and her second Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy in 2011. She has extensive training in applied behavior analysis/behavior therapy. Denise is a Certified Infant & Toddler Developmental Specialist.
Denise is also a PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI), an American Hippotherapy Association Registered Therapist, and an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL). Denise has been with Bit-By-Bit since 2011 and was promoted from senior therapist to Program Director in 2016 and is now the Executive Director since 2023. When not at the Bit-By-Bit barn, Denise can be found hanging out with retired therapy horse, Hank the Tank at his retirement home or watching her son AJ play junior ice hockey.
Susan March RPT
In the year 2000, Susan was a practicing pediatric therapist with a love of horses. While covering for another therapist she discovered a treatment strategy called hippotherapy. She was so amazed and intrigued by this new type of therapy that soon, in conjunction with friend and colleague Kathleen Pegues and a few passionate parents, they founded Bit-By-Bit in 2002. Susan and Kathy each
purchased a horse and began treating their first 4 patients. In December of 2015, after years of hard work, the long held goal of purchasing a barn came true! The program grew and today offers over
500 therapy sessions per month.
Originally from Connecticut, Susan has been practicing as a Physical Therapist for over 40 years.
Her tremendous experience in the areas of physical dysfunction, neurological impairments, and
sensory processing disorders has traversed the lifespan from pediatrics to geriatrics.
Kathleen Pegues MS, OTR/L
Board of Directors & Founding Member
Kathleen is originally from the Bronx, New York where she attended the Bronx High School of Science. She obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Human Biology from the State University of New York at Albany. She received her post-graduate degree from Florida International University in Occupational Therapy. Kathleen has specialized in pediatrics and equine assisted therapies since 1998. Kathleen is both a PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and AHA registered therapist. In 2012, Kathleen won the Gail Hills, PhD, OTR, FAOTA Award for Scholarship in Occupational Therapy from the Department of Health Sciences at Florida International University. Kathleen served for 14 years as our Executive Director and retired in 2016. She currently serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors.
MEET OUT FOUR-HOOVED THERAPISTS
We carefully choose each horse and match it with the individual clients’ needs. Read more about each of them below…
Country Music was one of the first horses to start in our program in 2003. He has been a great asset to Bit-By-Bit. He has taken care of many children with various disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, downs syndrome, and developmental delay. He has helped many children throughout his 14 year career. His wonderful equine movement helps to improve gross motor skills including sitting, standing, and walking as well as to improve range of motion, balance, strength, and endurance.
Several kids have said their first words on Country, and because of Country’s beautiful rhythmical gait, he has helped many children improve in many areas. He is the “alpha” horse of our herd and everyone at the barn knows it!!
Gypsy is the only mare in our herd. She is a Pasafino which means she is a “gaited” horse. Her gait is less concussive than the other horses in our herd.This makes her a favorite to use with children who have anxiety. She is also fairly short and narrow which makes her ideal for small children or those with very tight hips due to spasticity. She is known to be sassy and gives the boys in our herd a hard time! She has been working with the children at BBB for more than 7 years.
We call Chubbie our “rock star!” He is a Hafflinger pony which means he is very short and stocky. He is a strong horse with a broad back. He works with all types of children and can support more weight than one would think, given his short stature. He is not afraid of anything and can carry people with more severe disabilities without difficulty, allowing the therapist an easier way to work with these involved clients. He is almost 18 years old and has been working at Bit-By-Bit for over 7 years.
During a routine exercise session, Domino, in a freak accident, spooked and rammed his forehead into a tree fracturing it in many pieces and pushing his eye out of the socket.
He was rushed to the emergency specialist in Loxahatchee where they performed a successful surgery to repair his forehead and reposition the eye. Two days after the surgery he experienced life-threatening colic and nearly died from the condition. Domino was in the hospital a total of 10 days and continues to be followed at our barn by his primary vet and an eye specialist. It appears that he has recovered most of the vision in his right eye. His doctors have cleared him to begin reconditioning and get back to work.
Domino’s medical bills have swelled to $11,000 and climbing. The unforeseen medical expenses and added anxiety caused to his riders have placed a somber strain on barn operations. Getting Domino well and back to the work he loves is a goal that we are all focused on.
Hank the Tank
Hank is an 11-year-old Quarter Horse and Draft mix who was rescued on his way to slaughter in 2013. He was neglected and possibly kept overweight to garner more money at slaughter. We were able to immediately assess his temperament as patient and brave – all the best qualities for a therapy horse – but his conditioning was poor. As soon as he came home with us, Hank was placed on a proper diet and regular exercise regimen.
Due to Hank’s steady personality, he was chosen to be trained for our “tandem hippo therapy” program. His large physique and trustworthiness made him ideal to safely carry a therapist and a child simultaneously.
Hank the Tank is loved for his ability to be calm if a child with autism is having a rough day and melts down while riding him. He is also appreciated by the wounded veterans for his tolerance and patience as they fight to regain their balance after amputation or traumatic brain injury.