I have written much about horse health products, building muscle in horses, etc which is our way of giving back to our horses. In addition, there is so much time and attention that goes into raising and teaching our horses valuable skills and lessons about how to perform in various venues. This is just as it should be. I think all creatures are at their best when they are doing what it is they have been trained and/or bred for.
There is a whole other world of what Horses can teach us as human beings. There is a tremendous community of people and horses that give so much back. The magnificence of these giant animals shines clear when they are used in ways that offer therapy to a plethora of groups that can use a helping hand. Groups of Autistic folks, Veterans with challenges, Incarcerated and recently incarcerated people, Trauma victims, etc.
There is an organization worth a mention called PATH Intl. they spelled our name and explains their function. They are the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. This is a 501(c)3 organization that leads the advancement of professional equine-assisted services by supporting its members and stakeholders through rigorously developed standards, credentials, and education. Through their effort, they create positive outcomes that have lifelong impacts on so many worthy folks.
A few years ago I wrote in another blog about my extraordinary Granddaughter working with one such group that helps Trauma Survivors.
One of the things I try to impart to my kids and Grandkids is to be a “Good seer and good sayer.” As if to affirm that she got the message my wonderful 14-year-old Granddaughter was volunteering (pre-covid) with a most fascinating Magic program in Western North Carolina where she lives. The program is called “HEART OF HORSE SENSE’. The Founder and the Executive Director is Shannon Knapp.
From their website; “Heart of Horse Sense was initially founded to support quality, professional trauma-informed equine therapy services for Veterans, First Responders, At-Risk Youth & their families. Our mission has expanded now to include all survivors of trauma. Our vision is that every trauma survivor has access to counseling and learning with horses”.
In 2013, Shannon began with a program for socially challenged youth from a local public housing complex. With that first group, her comment was “The staff of Children First and Horse Sense of the Carolinas were all crying at the bright, kind eyes of the kids in contact with the horses,” says Knapp. “Kids the staff had never seen smile before were beaming on horseback on a beautiful summer day. That was my moment of, ‘We must keep doing this.’ She then partnered with Jake, a Marine Corps veteran who was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To date, the program has helped over 2000 Vets deal with various challenges.
Even more amazing is the horses in the program are rescue animals, the training they receive is unique in that it is “Natural Horsemanship” which results in “a kinder and gentler cowboy” developing a rapport with horses. It prevents the oft-used training by abusive methods of these wonderful and majestic animals. This, combined with the equine-assisted psychotherapy and learning for some of the most vulnerable among us and the program is successful due to the myriad volunteers, my Granddaughter included, seems to me to be the epitome of a value-added program. My Grandchildren are constantly showing me a path to Hope for the future. the Heart of Horse Sense website is https://www.heartofhorsesense.org/