Horses Help Humans through Therapy in Eastern NC
By Kay Whatley, Editor
Horses have performed different types of work in NC going back hundreds of years. They have pulled plows and wagons. Horses carried riders. Horses became less necessary for daily work as their tasks were taken on by tractors. As they were replaced for farm and town work, some became recreational, put out to pasture, or became family “pets” as farm work became mechanized.
Some horses in NC have a new way of helping: being part of therapy sessions. The horses prove helpful in new therapies to help humans of all ages to improve physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.
Working with psychologists, therapists, health care professionals, and horse handlers, horses take on the job of helping children and adults connect with the world. The horses also help humans to learn better ways of handling or dealing with emotions. They can also help people learn how to better work and interact with other people.
Some of the words used by therapy horse handler Kim Haselhuhn are empowerment, confidence, and control. By working with horses during therapy, troubled humans find new ways to connect with each other, and learn through interactions with the horse.
One local horse has been instrumental in helping children become comfortable enough to open up to therapists during sessions. “Monty”, a quarter horse paint, has also helped teen gang members learn about their emotions and how to handle them. They have learned tools for mediation and managing anger. This horse — as part of a human-horse therapy team — has helped people of all ages gain confidence as a pathway to taking control of their lives and choices.
Monty lives on Sweetwater Farm as part of the Kindred Spirits Farm therapy program. Kindred Spirits works with psychologists and horse handlers. Located on the outskirts of Zebulon near Middlesex NC, Monty and his five current stable mates are a large part of therapy sessions at the farm.
Opened in 2009 by Kim, Kindred Spirits farm guides horses and humans in a carefully orchestrated regimen to help the humans.
Kim started the horse therapy program after she realized she was finding her own peace and stress release through riding.
She was working a high stress, high emotion job as a neonatal and pediatric nurse. In her job, she dealt with childrens’ struggles, pain, and sometimes loss. She found that riding her own horse after work left her feeling much better and more emotionally healthy and balanced. Kim retired from nursing to run the Kindred Spirits Farm program because of the peace she found and a desire to pass it on to others.
After researching some of the studies on human-horse therapy, including benefits to autistic children, Kim partnered with a Zebulon social work with knowledge of therapy and psychotherapy. Kim began making her horses, and several others, available for sessions.
In addition to therapy at the farm, Kim and Monty have visited local schools. “Some of these children have never seen a horse, never touched one,” says Kim. “When they see this 1000 lb horse their eyes just light up.”
Whether a parent struggling with a defiant child, a social worker struggling to break through with a client, or an adult feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or in need of a break from the “rat race”, Kindred Spirits Farm’s horse therapy program may prove helpful to mind, body, and spirit. No experience with horses is needed! They may be visited online at www.kindredspiritsfarmnc.com, or contact Kim Haselhuhn at 919.215.0811.