Horses for Healing - A Time to Disconnect from Medical Thoughts
When Joy turns into the gravel driveway heading to the barn, she disconnects from the medical thoughts she carries about her cancer experience. “Mane Stream provides a cleansing experience and a breath of fresh air!”
Living with cancer is difficult. Every Horses for Healing participant says it is important to have the chance to “feel normal” and this program gives them that chance. Time at the barn, whether you ride or not, is spent focusing on building a connection with your horse and the other participants. One of the only programs of its kind in our area, Horses for Healing (affectionately known as H4H) is unique. It combines groundwork, riding lessons and horse care into the program and it FREE of charge.
Each week, Myrell allows Joy to brush her “beautiful brown hair” and, with the assistance of Mane Stream volunteers, Joy prepares Myrell for their riding lesson. The staff members and volunteers are welcoming and supportive. The techniques and skills they share challenge Joy’s abilities in ways that give her confidence in what she can do since her double mastectomy. Joy says, “Myrell is a big girl and so am I, and I feel safe on top of her, learning how to hold the reins, sitting straighter on the saddle [gaining better posture which is a positive benefit for the reconstruction].” Joy reports that trotting on Myrell makes her “feel free and truly present in each moment- a true gift!”
Another participant, Renee, is coming back for a second H4H session after spending the first session grooming, tacking and bonding with her small pony, Justin. She found these tasks enjoyable and therapeutic. A third participant, Virginia said that in her youth she rode horses daily and was a member of the United States Pony Club, advancing to a fairly high level in their riding program. Working around and caring for the horses during H4H brought those memories back and was comforting. She’s now interested in riding again and said “everyone running the program was great and aware of the participants needs.”
Reaching goals and becoming a better rider are secondary to doing something new and challenging. Our participants report that taking care of an animal instead of having people take care of them creates a different dynamic while they regain skills and recapture memories from before their cancer diagnosis. Every week brings gains in confidences and growth in abilities.
The Mane Stream volunteers who assist with this program tend to do so because they have in some way been impacted by cancer. Laura Edelson, who started volunteering almost 2 years ago, has volunteered with every H4H session since that time. She loves the H4H program and enjoys watching the participants’ confidence grow little by little each week as they start to relax and enjoy their time on and with the horses.
Program Coordinator, Kelly Champion loves working with this population and keeps in touch with them even after their session concludes. Because of her dynamic personality, Kelly finds a way to encourage each participant in just the right way with the right degree of persuasion to get the results she believes each is able to achieve. With misty eyes, Kelly beams during the last lesson as her pupils, attempt mounting unassisted and trotting off lead.
Several sessions of Horses for Healing are scheduled for 2019. Please SHARE to reach individuals who could benefit from this FREE program. All those living with, recovering from, and living life after cancer are welcome in H4H, including their caregivers/partners.