There's something about the outside of a horse, that's good for the inside of a man...
The horses that come to our rescue have most often been the victims of unspeakable cruelty. They are weak and broken, physically and emotionally. Their ability to trust has been shattered and they are fearful, and sometimes aggressive. A horse is a prey animal, his ability to sense danger is vital to his survival. Without it he will eventually perish, or become too weakened to fight to survive. Just feeding these horses and caring for their wounds is not enough, the psychological wounds must also be healed, and they are often the most difficult wounds to overcome. The children who come here for refuge have similar stories of neglect, abandonment, and emotional harm. Both will need care, love, patience, empathy, understanding, and fair and consistent guidance and discipline. Together they can not only recover, but flourish.
A horse is a sentient creature, like us he thinks and feels. His emotions are more primal than ours, but that's what makes him so perfect for children who are living with difficult life challenges. A horse will display only honest emotion, and his keen senses make him incredibly intuitive. A horse can often sense our true feelings, even if we don't realize them ourselves. For example, a child with an aggressive personality may actually be very fearful and using the aggression as a protection mechanism. As the child approaches a horse in recovery and displays the aggressive behaviors toward the horse, the horse may display aggression in return, or fearfully refuse to interact with the child. This creates a learning opportunity for us to discuss the response in the moment as it happens, and the child can actually see what his behavior looks like to others, and begin immediately to create more positive experiences.
For children in foster care settings, especially those with special needs, life skills and positive emotional responses may not be adequately developed. Here on the farm, the horses serve as guides and teachers giving that intuitive instant feedback to the children as they interact together. They learn the responsibility of caring for another living creature, and see first hand from the horses in need what can happen if that care is not given. Along with the positive behavioral change, they are also learning crucial skills they will need to function independently in their daily lives such as consumer math, budgeting, food safety and how to prepare and measure ingredients, how to make simple repairs, and build things, but most importantly, they learn that respect is earned as much as it is given.
Clinics and learning opportunities
We are pleased to announce that in 2018 we begin offering learning and certification programs for human services and mental health professionals interested in partnering horses with their clients. Clinics will be facilitated Colleen Cheechalk, who is credentialed in Equine Assisted Learning and Psychotherapy, Hippotherapy, The Horse Boy Method, the Mind Body Method/Coaching with Horses, as well as certification in wellness and professional coaching. She has been connecting children and adults with special needs together with horses from Sunkissed Acres since 2008, and volunteers her time as a facilitator for our organization to help others learn this life changing work. If you are interested in hosting a clinic on our farm, please contact Colleen Cheechalk by clicking here.