When East Wake Academy teacher, Jessie Weaver, sought a community service project, a parent referred her to Kindred Spirits Farm. The students needed to provide service, and the horse farm had work to be done.
Students at East Wake Academy perform community service as a part of their education. They also travel on two field trips each year.
Kindred Spirits Farm is a nonprofit located at 5591 Massey Road, Zebulon, North Carolina. Overseen by Kim Haselhuhn, the farm provide equine-assisted (horse) therapy to people of all ages, with an emphasis on helping children and teens. Working with horses allows an individual, or members of a family, to find new ways to communicate. Guided by the therapist, connecting with and communicating with horses gives humans a different perspective on their personal interactions.
Because they are a nonprofit, Kindred Spirits Farm welcomes volunteers and community service groups. When Ms. Weaver approached Kim Haselhuhn, it seemed a great fit for the teens and the farm.
The group of about two dozen teens and parents arrived at the farm February 24, 2017, at 9am. Kim put them to work right away with a “stick pick-up race.” Divided into groups, the kids competed to fill buckets with sticks from a pine grove by the barn. As each bucket was filled, it was dumped onto a waiting trailer and the bucket count announced. Shouts of “Ten” and “Eleven” could be heard as the time wound down and groups hustled to get their last loads onto the trailer. The winning teams — tied for eleven — then lined up for a group photo. The group had fun. The farm benefited from having a job done.
Kim next led the group to the front of the barn, where they were joined by a farm helper and a horse. Kim then started an educational presentation. She briefly explained what the farm does in helping kids, and being a happy place through difficult times. She then introduced Odie, the farm’s Quarter Horse. Kim explained that Odie is a Tobiano (brown-with-white) Paint horse.
Kim explained to the group of teens and parents, that horses were a prey animal. She talked about predator behavior versus prey behavior, and how they should approach Odie calmly and visibly, so he wouldn’t be afraid they were predators coming to eat him. She asked the group to guess Odie’s weight — and their guesses were close. Odie’s weight is 1,063 pounds, which Kim explained would hurt their toes if he stepped on them so watch where they put their feet, and Odie’s feet.
The educational portion of the day went over how horses are measured in “hands,” what horses can eat, how they communicate with their ears (flat back = mad), their eyesight, strong sense of smell, and dental growth. Kim passed around a horse tooth and questioned them on how old they thought the horse was that lost the tooth. The group discussed, and disagreed on whether it was lost by an old or young horse.
She finished the lecture with a show of Odie’s feet, explanation of the hoof parts. She asked the teens, “Have you ever had a rock in your shoe?” then explained how important it is to clean the hooves regularly.
Odie cooperated, at least most of the time. After the educational lecture, Kim invited all of the kids to come and “pet” Odie.
Then, it was off to the obstacle course. Athena, a Polish Arabian horse, and Nessa, cousin to Athena, joined Odie to work with the students. Everyone walked from the barn down the hill to the obstacle course.
“When you lead a horse,” Kim told the group, “You have to be the leader. If you’re not the leader, someone has to be, so the horse will lead.” Kim showed the group how to stand and walk as leader, and then the horse will follow them.
Kim broke the kids into three groups, each with a horse horse. Two groups were set up to lead the horses through obstacles, with a goal of weaving through cones and stopping the horse with two feet inside a hula hoop on the ground. A third group was at a grooming station, with Nessa, and Kim explained how to properly walk around a horse. The kids got a chance to move through the groups, each leading then grooming and leading again.
Kim and two farm helpers, Mackenzi Schnetzler and Emma Cannon, oversaw the groups and guided the teens through the leadership exercises. Each student worked on communicating to the horse along the obstacles, then as they finished, each turned the horse around and handed the rope lead off to next student. Kim asked the teens how they felt when they got the horse to put its front feet into the hula hoop — a task not as easy as it sounds.
Then it was time for a break for all. The horses were released into a pasture. The kids were released to the barn yard where they drank water, grabbed shade and rest, and spent an unexpected amount of time climbing and sitting on the barn’s tie rail. Some played with one of the farm’s dogs, Jackson, who had an endless number of arms to throw the ball for him.
The group ended the day with another race — picking up rocks in a side pasture and carrying them to a pile by the farm’s bonfire pit. After handing out gloves and cautioning the groups to not fill the huge buckets to the top, the group scoured the field for rocks — though they were moving a little slower in this second race.
The day was warm and the sun bright; all were ready to be done with the work. Even Jackson, the dog, looked tired.
The East Wake Academy group fulfilled their community service, and seemed to really have fun doing it. Kindred Spirits Farm has two more jobs off their list, and appreciated the chance to teach and to have so many hands to help.
Before driving away, the kids and their parents watched the horses playing in the field — including Odie rolling around in the grass. All waved as they left, most with a smile on their face.
East Wake Academy (EWA) is a K-12 school located in Zebulon NC. EWA strives “to deliver the most outstanding college prep curriculum to our students in order for them to achieve success in their futures beyond EWA.” The school is online at www.eastwakeacademy.org. The school is well-known in the area as being a top school for teens to get an education and participate in the community.
Recent updates from Kindred Spirits Farm may be found on their Facebook page here, on their website, or call Kim HaselHuhn at 919.215.0811. Volunteers are welcome, and there is always something to be done.