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Horses help kids heal

 

When people think about animals helping humans, they often think about dogs helping people with disabilities. But, dogs aren’t the only ones that provide support. There’s a much larger breed of animals helping humans, and these gentle companions aren’t horsing around.

“Horses live in harmony,” says Cherie Sanstead, Harmony Stables. “Their whole existence is based in harmony. There is so much we can learn from the herd that can help us develop better relationships, better communication and better lives overall.”

Thanks to money provided by Capital Electric Cooperative’s (CEC) Operation Round Up program, at-risk children from Charles Hall Youth Services (CHYS) are benefiting from equine learning activities at Harmony Stables.

“The children we serve have been hurt and let down nearly all of their lives. Sometimes, they’re afraid of developing strong relationships,” says Rhonda Styles-Rohde, CHYS.

“When they are involved in equine activities, they learn how to develop a healthy relationship with the horse. Our hope is that when they are in the community, they can keep the same principles in mind and develop healthy relationships with people.”

CHYS is a faith-based residential foster care agency that serves at-risk children between the ages of 10 and 19. Equine activities are part of its THRIVE program, which aims to engage youth in the community through physical activity, exposure to the arts and experiential activities.

Equine learning allows the children to discover new experiences, challenge themselves and grow through the healing power of horses. “Our goal is to help these kids thrive in the community,” says Styles-Rohde. “A few years ago, some of the girls went to a horse camp at Providence Ranch Ministries near Bismarck, and they just flourished. It was wonderful for them.”

Those experiences motivated CHYS staff to make equine activities a part of the THRIVE program. Every week, two private sessions are held at Harmony Stables. Each child chooses a horse to work with, and the experience is tailored to the child. Sanstead says equine learning allows the children to experience the horses in their own way.

“Just like those kids, each horse brings its own gifts, its own lessons and its own personality,” Sanstead says. “There’s some nurturing, some mentoring and there’s a mutual respect. The horse is more than just a tool. You’re building a relationship with that horse. It’s a pretty amazing experience.”

In August, CEC’s Operation Round Up program provided CHYS with $2,400 to provide current underwriting equine activities to the THRIVE program. Funding for Operation Round Up comes from generous members who elect to round up their bill to the nearest dollar. The resulting funds are put into a charitable trust account used to assist local individuals and nonprofit organizations. To sign up, call CEC at 701-223-1513.

 

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