As a parent of a child with a disability, sometimes we feel hopeless, helpless, and at a loss for words; therefore, we must remain grounded in our faith, hold on to hope, and above all else love unconditionally. It’s also important for us to find creative ways to help our children grow, learn, and develope. Finding Harmony Hope Stables has been such a blessing to my family and an answer to my prayers.
My son Cayden is nine years old and was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder at age four. Two years ago, he began Equine Therapy at HHS and that’s when horses started changing his life. Cayden has always had profound love and interest in animals, but he struggled with being calm, quiet, and gentle around them. When Cayden first started at HHS he was in individual equine assisted learning classes where he was taught how to care for horses and ride a horse. It was through his hard work and relationship building with the horses that he learned empathy, mindfulness, confidence, and self esteem on the ranch, at home, and in the classroom. In addition, he learned techniques on how to manage his anxiety and emotions better. During Cayden’s first year at HHS, he also participated in group music therapy, which allowed him to express himself through music while having fun and interacting with his peers.
This year, Kristi recommended that Cayden participate in group equine assisted learning to further develop and help improve his social skills, such as making friends, waiting his turn, showing empathy, practicing patience, and minding his manners. At first, we were both a little nervous about starting this type of equine therapy with Cayden because he struggles with managing his emotions and behavior; however, we were hopeful that this would be of great benefit to him. As it turns out, this is exactly what Cayden needed to improve – he has changed the way he interacts with his peers, our family, and especially his brother. He has learned patience, ways to manage his emotions, and the art of waiting his turn, working with the horses, his peers, and the HHS team brings a sense of peace and tranquility over Cayden and for that our family is forever grateful.
“Thank you, Kristi and the HHS Team for making a difference in our lives and the community.”
– Rochelle Popp-Finch
Pamela is an 11-year-old female residing at Hibiscus Children’s Center’s residential shelter. Pamela was removed from her parents’ care when she was 7 years old due to exposure to substance misuse, domestic violence, and being a victim of abuse (emotional, physical abuse, neglect, and alleged sexual abuse). Pamela was in several foster homes and group homes before being placed at HCC’s Tilton Family Children’s Shelter. She has a history of hospitalizations due to Baker Acts. She had failing grades, retention, and suspensions from school. When she arrived at HCC she was detached and would not engage with her peers or adults. She had a difficult time self-regulating and would become verbally and physically aggressive towards others.
Pamela has been provided Equine and Music Therapy in groups for several months at Harmony Hopes Stables. When she started the equine groups, she would shut down and refuse to participate. At the shelter and school, she was continuing to be non-complaint and aggressive. Slowly, she opened up and would try new things and participate in the equine activities and music group. Since joining the equine group her confidence and feelings of self-worth have increased. She also has made progress in therapy and is starting to heal from her traumas. Her relationships with the mentors and the horses are more positive than ever at the ranch. In working with her mentor, she now can groom the horses, walk them, feed them, help turn them out, take them through the obstacle course, and even do jumps with the horses while walking them through the course.
One of her favorite things to do is to groom Rio and to make him show ready. She has become a strong leader when working with the horses and is on her way to becoming a mentor for the new participants. She completes barn chores with a smile. She also is becoming a very good ukulele player. At home (shelter) and school she has also been moving forward and healing from her traumas. She has increased her positive engagement with others and has increased her ability to self-regulate and express herself verbally.