Tag Archives: horses

Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from home!

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After leaving Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we began our long trek back to Pennsylvania. The trip home was accelerated due to Rusty needing to be back on Wednesday afternoon for his college classes. So, while we took six days to make the 2000 mile trip west, we were making that same journey home in three days. This meant most of our time was spent driving, and since I lost my one licensed driver when we dropped Molly off at school (the boys permits don’t allow driving outside the state,) I was the one putting in 12 hours of driving each day.

Book tapes and impromptu stops to see local treasures along the way made the drive manageable.

On Monday we worked our way across Wyoming, with plans to spend the night in Cheyanne. Along the way we saw signs posted about wild horses that call that area of Wyoming home. Our curiosity was peeked, so when we saw the turn off for the wild horse coral overlook, we pulled in to check it out and stretch our legs.

It was an unassuming pavilion sitting atop a hill,

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Overlooking corrals of horses in the valley below. Inside the corrals were horses of every color, young and grown, frolicking under the summer sun.

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Situated around the pavilion were information boards about the wild horses and the work that is done to manage the population, thus ensuring a healthy, thriving herd.

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Because the horses have no natural predators the herd can easily grow bigger than the environment can naturally support. So, to keep the wild horse herd at a size sustainable to the resources available to them in the area, there are yearly round-ups.

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Some of the wild horses are collected and held at the corrals as they wait to be rehomed.

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They are put up for adoption, and for a small fee, anyone who passes the vetting process can adopt one of these Wyoming wild horses.

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It is a neat conservation program and I found it fascinating to learn about as we sat and watched the horses in the valley below us.

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This was one of those unexpected, impromptu stops that make road trips such a fun adventure…

You never know what unexpected site is around the next bend!

 

And on to the Derby!

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On Friday morning we disembarked from the houseboat, but our vacation wasn’t over quite yet. We decided that rather than drive the nine hours straight home, we would slowly meander our way back, over the next three days, stopping to see some sites along the way.

Our first stop was Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby.

After reading amazing reviews online we decided to check out the Kentucky Derby Museum.

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Located at Churchill Downs, the museum showcases all aspects of the race, has multiple tours of the grounds, and a great short documentary on the race.

We aren’t horse racing fans…in fact I knew nothing about the Kentucky Derby prior to our visit other than the fashionable traditions of the fancy hats worn on race day, but we left with a great appreciation for this long standing tradition.

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The museum and accompanying tours can be a full-day event for those that have the time. Basic admission allows you to explore the museum, participate in a 30 minute history walk (these happen every half hour past the hour), and view their 18 minute video “The Greatest Race.”

The museum experience starts at the gates. There are two floors of interactive exhibits, videos, photos, race artifacts and information. It is tailored for all ages and degrees of derby fans.

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We loved how interactive and engaging the exhibits were.

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It was an amazing museum!

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We learned about the life and training of a racehorse from birth until it is races in the Derby at age 3. This was one of my favorite exhibits in the museum.

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We were able to learn the art of horse betting with a pretend ticket window where we could place bets on the race,

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And then sit and watch a recording of a previous race.

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At the end of the video we could scan our ticket and see what our $2.00 bet would have paid out. Through this experience we learned we should never gamble on horse races!

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The kids’ competitive natures came out when they had their go at being a jockey.

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They were able to mount up and race against other riders on the video screen before them.

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They got to dress up like jockeys and learn more about the colors certain jockeys wear,

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As well as see how they measure up to one of the most winning jockeys of all time.

Grace was thrilled to finally be taller than someone other than the toddlers she watches at the daycare.

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We learned a lot about the requirements that the jockeys have to follow on race day. The big one is their weight. The Kentucky Derby requires an exact weight of 126 lbs, including gear and saddle. Jockeys who fall short of the weight requirement must add weight to their saddle, no exceptions.

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There was an incredible amount of information about horses whom have raced. We were able to watch videos of past Kentucky Derby races and learn more about some of the greatest horses that ever raced,

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Including Balboa whose final resting place sits in front of the museum.

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After walking through the exhibits of hats and all the memorabilia it was time to watch “The Greatest Race.”

This video is displayed on a 360° screen in a theater big enough for 50+ people.

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As you watch, it will have you twirling in your seat to keep up and your heart pounding. The video covers race day preparations, interviews with jockeys, trainers, and owners, along with highlights from races dating back to the 1800’s.  The result is an appreciation for what goes into this huge event, an event that has more live spectators than the Superbowl!

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After the video we exited the museum for the included 30 minute history walk.

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Posted on the buildings around us was a chronological list of prior Derby winners, starting with Aristides in 1875.

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As we walked along, we saw every horse that has won the Kentucky Derby, the first triple crown winner, and the first father/son triple crown winners. Our tour guide was helpful in answering questions, and dishing out information about specific winners and races. Some people asked about famous horses like Secretariat and Barbaro.

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One of my favorite parts about the tour was the Paddock. The paddock holds the up to 18 contestants on race day, and is a popular viewing place for spectators. When the horses walk in, their lip tattoos are checked and then they are taken to the individual stalls. . The Paddock is the last place the horses will be before taking the walk to the track.

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Then to the track!

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The distance between the Paddock and the race track is connected by a small tunnel underneath the stands. The horses are escorted through the tunnel, and upon entering the track, the tradition of everyone singing My Old Kentucky Home begins.

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The horses are then led to the starting gate.

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It was amazing to stand at the edge of the track and soak up the history of the location. It made me want to add a trip to the Kentucky Derby to my bucket list. I can only imagine how charged the energy must be on race day.

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We were at the Kentucky Derby Museum on Friday for 2 1/2 hours and never made it to the second floor. The museum closed at 5:00 pm and everyone was so disappointed that we weren’t able to see it all that we decided to spend the night in Louisville and return back in the morning (our tickets allowed free access for 48 hours) to see the rest of the exhibits before continuing our trek north.

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We were blown away by the place and we aren’t even racing fans.

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Our discussion of the experience continued for days and we left the museum wanting to learn more.

Here are some of the fun facts we learned about the Kentucky Derby:

1. Nineteen past winners have had names beginning with the letter “S,” including Secretariat, the fastest horse in Kentucky Derby history, who completed the 1973 race in just under two minutes.

2. The amount of food consumed at the Derby is pretty astounding. On average, spectators will eat 142,000 hot dogs, 18,000 barbecue sandwiches, 13,800 pounds of beef, 32,400 jumbo shrimp, 9,000 scallops, 8,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 cookies and 300,000 strawberries.

3. Only three horses raced in the 1892 Kentucky Derby.

4. The traditional drink of the Derby is the mint julep, and over 120,000 are said to be consumed at the race each year.

5. Diane Crump was the first woman jockey to ever ride in the Derby; there has yet to be a female winner, but Shelley Riley came the closest in 1992 when she came in second. We were told that the reason so few women race in the derby is due to the massive size of thoroughbred horses and the arm strength needed to control them.

6. The Kentucky Derby trophy only weighs 3½ lbs.

7. The youngest jockey to win the esteemed race, Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, was just 15 come derby day in 1892. Bill Shoemaker continues to hold the title as the oldest winner; he was 54 when he took home the 1986 title.

8. Bill Shoemaker has also ridden the most Kentucky Derby horses (26) in history.

9. The record low temperature at the race (held on the first week of May every year) was 47 degrees in 1935 and 1957. The record high was 94 degrees in 1959.

10. Churchill Downs founder and president Col. M. Lewis Clark might have made the rose the official flower of the race after attending an 1883 post-derby party where socialite E. Berry Wall was handing the flower out to the ladies in attendance.

11. The Derby is also referred to as ‘The Run for the Roses’ because the winner is awarded a blanket sewn with over 400 roses post-race. This blanket weighs about 40 lbs.

12. Owner Calumet Farm  holds the record for most Kentucky Derby wins, with 8. “Plain Ben” Jones holds the record for trainer with the most wins (6).

13. Post No. 1 has become known as “the dreaded rail.”

14. 1919 champion Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner, however he hadn’t won a race before arriving at the Derby.

15. Over $150 million in wagers have been placed over the last several Kentucky Derby races.

16. Horses must be three years in order to compete.

17. The Derby has never been cancelled or postponed due to inclement weather.

18. The historic 1¼-mile race was originally 1½ miles before the current distance was established in 1896.

19. The Kentucky Derby was started by Lewis Clark Jr.—grandson of William Clark, half of the famous explorer duo Lewis and Clark—after he saw England’s Epsom Derby.

20. Only three fillies (female horses) have won the Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.

21. The 2018 event set the record for the wettest Kentucky Derby in history, with over 2.31 inches of rainfall.

22. The race was first televised in 1952.

23. The purse for the 2019 Derby will be $3 million, with the winner taking home $1.86 million, $600,000 for second place, $300,000 for third place, $150,000 for fourth place, and $90,000 for fifth. This marks a significant increase in the prize money: from 2005 to 2018, the purse was only $2 million.

This stop moves to the top of our list of must-see places for travelers…

Right up there with the City Museum of St. Louis and Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

We are so glad we stopped in Louisville!

 

One Step Closer to the Eagle

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It has been 9 years since Rusty first donned the blue and gold uniform of the Cub Scouts. Since then he has spent endless hours learning skills, earning merit badges, camping, hiking, building fires, attending Scout Camp, and participating in service projects, all with the end goal of earning his Eagle.

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America. The designation “Eagle Scout” was founded over one hundred years ago. Only four percent of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill.

And we are proud to say that Rusty is one step closer to joining the 4 % who have earned that rank.

One of the final steps in earning the rank of Eagle comes when the scout develops and executes a plan to lead a service project that will benefit  the community. This large project is the culmination of a lot of behind-the-scenes planning, prepping and presenting the planned project to gain approval for their proposed Eagle Scout project.

As Rusty considered possible projects he decided to approach the good people at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization that he and his sisters volunteer at two mornings a week to see if they had any possible work projects on their wish list that he and his scout troop could bless them with.

Our family was introduced to Ready Yourself Youth Ranch a year ago as a possible resource for the older kids as we navigated the challenging/explosive behaviors that Ozzie was presenting at the time. Our family based therapy team thought the ranch could be a place of refuge that the older kids could escape to on hard days and allow them to benefit from the therapeutic affects of serving and blessing others.

My kiddos fell in love with the ranch and since that day have committed themselves to waking up early two mornings a week and driving to the ranch to care for the horses from 7:00- 9:00 am. Their responsibilities include feeding/watering  the horses, moving them to the pastures, grooming horses, and mucking stalls.

It not the most glamorous work, but my kids love it. They have found a place of refuge and peace among the dusty stalls of Ready Yourself Youth Ranch…

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And they aren’t the only ones.

“Ready Yourselves Youth Ranch is a non-profit, Christian ministry that connects horses in need of rescue with children dealing with challenges and difficulties who need to learn about the hope and healing found in Jesus Christ. In 2010, the founders and directors, Micheline and Mathew Barkley desired to combine her broken childhood and his equestrian experience to rescue horses and mentor children facing conflicts and challenges of their own.  When God blessed them with fifty acres of land, in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, they gathered a dedicated group of volunteers and mentors to bring their faith, time and talents to make RYYR a place where God’s love and grace enables horses and children to trust and love again.

Ready Yourselves Youth Ranch is for children, ages 6 through 18, who are dealing with challenges and difficulties. We connect one child, one horse, and one mentor for ninety minutes of interactive experience, free of charge. Learning to care for and ride rescue horses, many who have come from environments of abuse or neglect, increases a child’s trust, faith and love. The overall aim of our session program is to love and encourage children which in turn will foster hope and joy.”

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When Rusty approached Micheline (the owner and visionary of the ranch) about projects on her wish list she quickly produced a list of possible projects Rusty could undertake for his Eagle Scout project. He decided that he would present the plan of constructing an outdoor riding arena for the ranch to the board to get approval. Once he received approval the dates were set for his Eagle Scout project.

The project took two Saturdays.

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The support of many made lighter work of what would have been a very arduous task!

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Dozens of fellow scouts, leaders, siblings, and friends from church answered the call and showed up ready to work.

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It was quite the undertaking but the arrival of many helpers was inspiring.

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Rusty couldn’t have done it without the generous support of so many helping hands.

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Here are photos of the many happy helpers and the project they tackled over the course of two Saturdays:

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In Rusty’s attempt to bless others, he too was blessed.

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We are so proud of this young man we call “son.”

A BIG “thank you” to all who have helped mold Rusty into the man he is today.

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He is who he is thanks in part to leaders (both current and past) who have taught Rusty scouting survival skills and basic life skills that will benefit him as a man. We are grateful for the wonderful troop of boys who have grown up with Rusty, and the many friends and families who have cheered Rusty on as he has blossomed from a silent and timid little boy into a confident and caring young man.

It truly does take a village to raise a son…or at least an incredible Boy Scout troop.

How thankful I am for troop 558!

We are happy to Announce…

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For the last 12 months my three oldest children have been volunteering their time two mornings a week at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch. This non-profit organization takes in abused and neglected horses for rehabilitation while also pairing healed horses with children who have unique needs and challenges. It is an amazing organization and serving at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch has proved to be an enormous blessing for Grace, Molly and Rusty. 

This past week we had Tyler’s 16-year-old biological brother, Brandon, visiting and the older kids invited him to go with them to volunteer at the horse farm… 

 For those who haven’t been following the blog this summer, Brandon is one of Tyler’s four biological siblings.

We met Brandon for the first time 4 years ago when we gathered all of Tyler’s biological siblings together for a reunion at Patchwork Farm. After many years of being separated and losing contact with each other, they were finally reunited.

At that time, Brandon was the last sibling remaining in foster care and the hurt he carried was evident in his countenance. At the time we inquired about Brandon and whether we could be considered a possible placement, only to discover that his foster parents were in the process of adopting Brandon. We were thrilled with this wonderful news. Brandon was finally getting the forever home he deserved to have.

At our next reunion the affect of being chosen and finally having his forever home was evident on his face. He was a different child and the joy radiated from him.

Fast forward 6 months and after months of not hearing from Brandon or his adoptive parents I received the heartbreaking news that Brandon’s adoptive mother (of 9 months) had been stolen from him by cancer. My heart broke for Brandon as I mourned the loss of Tina and wept at the cruelty of this earthly life for a child who waited so long for a mother only to have her snatched away.

Over the next few years we struggled to remain in contact with Brandon. His adoptive father became sick and was in and out of the hospital which led to Brandon being moved frequently through foster homes and residential facilities. We would call and send letters and not get any response. We weren’t sure where Brandon was but Tyler continued to petition us to seek Brandon out.

(Of all Tyler’s siblings Brandon is the one Tyler feels most connected to. I think this is a natural consequence of the two of them being the last of the siblings to be adopted. Years after the other children were settled into their forever homes Tyler and Brandon continued their court-ordered monthly visits as wards of the state.)

Finally, out of the blue, we received a call from a woman who  had been assigned Brandon’s case. Once again Brandon found himself in limbo as his adoptive father is dying and has only been given months to live. (Hospice has now been brought in) This social worker had been working to create a network of support for Brandon. She’s been seeking out family (both biological and adoptive) that could be a network of support for Brandon, and as part of that search Brandon gave her our names. She reached out and asked if we would like to have contact with Brandon, would like to be a source of support, and what we would like that relationship to look like.

I explained our situation to her and shared with her the transition we were currently navigating as Ozzie returned home from residential care and we were working to find stability with this transition. I expressed our desire to have contact with Brandon and work on reconnecting him with Tyler but couldn’t commit to anything more (ie: weekend visits, etc.) until we evaluated where Ozzie and the other children were emotionally following Ozzie’s return home.

It was with baby steps we moved forward trying assess what our role in Brandon’s life was supposed to be and trying to hear God amidst the noise of “what ifs”…

Which leads us to this:

Last Tuesday I was surprised when Brandon enthusiastically jumped at the chance to wake up at 6:00 am and spend 2 hours mucking barns and feeding horses with Grace, Molly and Rusty at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch.

Like my other kids, he came home uplifted and empowered by the experience. He loved the horses and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty..

Later when sharing his experience with his social worker he expressed in a simple but powerful  way that he found he could relate to those horses he cared for that morning.

He told her, “They are just like me. They were abused and then nobody wanted them.

Yet, just like those horses, who have experienced the cruelest life has to offer and then were given a second chance,

Brandon is getting his long overdue chance at healing, hope and a family…

Here at Patchwork Farm.

Yes, you read that right. The Mccleery clan of seven will soon be a family of eight.

We are choosing to lean into, rather than run from, the discomfort of the unknown,  step out in faith, and rise to the call God has extended to our family…

Trusting that He doesn’t call the qualified but rather qualifies the Called.

And so…

We are happy to announce that our family is growing by 2 feet!!

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Two not-so-little feet!!

Please Pray with Us ❤

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Healing through Horses

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Both Tyler and Ozzie have been on a journey to find healing through horses. For Ozzie, that therapeutic journey is just beginning, but for Tyler we are now eight months into his equine experience.

Both boys receive equine therapy through Glade Run Adventures, and although both boys work with the same therapist their sessions look very different. This is because each program is built around each client’s particular needs.

At the start of each boy’s therapeutic journey with Glade Run Adventures we sat down and discussed our goals for the program and the unique strengths and struggles of each child. The program was then tailored to meet that child’s needs.

For Tyler our goal for equine therapy was increased mindfulness, decreased anxiety, increased confidence, and trauma healing. We know that one of the most successful therapeutic tools for Tyler is animals. He connects with animals easily and is able to open up and express emotions with animals in a way that traditional talk therapy doesn’t  always work.

Tyler has found a level of comfort and confidence on the back of his horse that isn’t always seen in other areas of his life. He LOVES equine therapy and has blossomed under this form of therapeutic care.

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After eight months of lessons he is now capable and comfortable grooming his own horse, mounting and dismounting independently, walking and trotting. This last week he was thrilled to discover he had graduated from lessons in the arena to his first trail ride. This was a big deal because he is “drove” his horse without the leading of his therapist. She followed as he took the lead.

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Ozzie’s first lesson was this past Wednesday. He also has an overall goal of trauma healing but has other objectives that differ from Tyler. For Ozzie our therapeutic goals include connecting and empathizing with his horse, mindfulness, body awareness, and sensory imput. Both my boys have sensory seeking behaviors- something that is commonly seen in children from hard places- but Ozzie’s added diagnoses of autism increases the need for sensory input even more. Our hope is that we will be able to really feed that need through horse therapy. Because Ozzie’s goals are a bit different than Tyler’s goals, more of Ozzie’s lesson time will be spent off the horse and focused on grooming. By grooming an animal Ozzie will be able to learn how to connect through showing care to another.

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He will strengthen his ability to read social cues by watching the horse’s reactions. He will get bathed in a sensory rich environment as he pets, brushes and squeezes the animal. He favorite think to do is rub his face in his horse’s mane.

Equine therapy is just one more tool we are applying to help our boys find help and healing.

Here is a little more information on this therapeutic tool as taken from equestriantherapy.com:

“Equestrian therapy (also known as equine therapy or equine-assisted therapy) is a form of therapy that makes use of horses to help promote emotional growth. Equestrian therapy is particularly applied to patients with ADD, anxiety, autism, dementia, delay in mental development, down syndrome and other genetic syndromes, depression, trauma and brain injuries, behavior and abuse issues and other mental health issues.

In many instances, riders with disabilities have proven their remarkable equestrian skills in various national and international competitions. This is the reason why equestrian therapy has been recognized as an important area in the medical field in many countries.

Equestrian or equine therapy is also an effective technique for many therapists to teach troubled youth on how they learn, react and follow instructions. For example in a  beginners’ horse therapy, a student may be asked to get the horse move outside of a circle without even touching it. Students may try to clap, yell and whistle but the horse won’t heed the signal. In the same manner, parents, friends and others who are part of a troubled youth’s therapy would learn that yelling, clapping and forcing would not be the best way to make the person do something.

Why horses for therapy

Horses are the most popularly used animal for therapy although elephants, dolphins, cats and dogs may also be used. This is because horses have the ability to respond immediately and give feedback to the rider’s action or behavior. Horses are also able to mirror the rider’s emotion.

The basis of the therapy is that because horses behave similarly like human beings do in their social and responsive behavior; it is always easy for patients to establish connection with the horse.

Therapeutic benefits of equestrian training

People with cognitive, psycho-motor and behavioral disabilities have shown positive results when equestrian or equine therapy is taught correctly by certified equine therapists. Just like other therapies such as physical, occupational and speech-language therapy, people with disabilities are being helped or assisted by certified therapists to cope with their disability like regular or normal people can. However, equine therapy combines all three in such a way that the patients or students do not feel that they are actually under therapy.

In the process, equestrian or equine therapy aims for its patients or students to:

  • Build sense of self-worth, self-concept
  • Improve communication
  • Build trust and self-efficiency
  • Develop socialization skills and decrease isolation
  • Learn impulse control and emotional management
  • Set perspective

Equine therapeutic activities

What are the equine-related activities for therapeutic purposes? The activities are not limited to horseback riding. Many students may feel intimidated by the horse’s size and features and may take some time to develop trust when around the horse. So included in the therapy program are lessons on horse care, horse grooming, saddling and basic equestrian.

How does equine therapist suit the activity to the patient’s needs? The process or technique to be applied during the session depends on the type of disorder and its severity. But the primary techniques are:

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Practicing activities
  • Activity scheduling
  • Play therapy
  • Storytelling and talk therapy

Watch this video from Oprah Show on how equine therapy helps an army veteran cope with post traumatic stress.

Lots of changes for Tyler

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This past month has been a big one for Tyler. He has had some “big news” moments that should be recorded for posterity so we will dedicate this blog to all the latest Tyler news…

Tyler continues to be blessed by equine therapy. Animals are one of Tyler’s greatest therapeutic tools and the effect this horse based therapy has had on his emotionally well being is astounding. He looks forward to these Saturday lessons and his skills and emotional stability have increased by leaps and bounds.

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He is currently working with a horse named Pumpkin. He outgrew Smokey (his first horse) and so his therapist was debating what horse to pair with him next. It is fascinating to observe this process. The pairing of rider and horse isn’t simply a match of size and skill but also a match of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. After graduating from Smokey his therapist paired him with Rosie. It was not a good match. His trainer felt the pairing would go one way or the other. Either it would be a match made in heaven (assuming Tyler was confident and dominant enough to lead Rosie) or it would go the other way and Rosie would walk all over Tyler (figuratively not literally 🙂 ) leaving him feeling insecure and frustrated. He wasn’t dominant enough to manage Rosie and she definitely set him back a few paces in his confidence. He is now paired with Pumpkin and the match is perfect. He is gaining confidence and connecting with her in a way he never did with Rosie.

The lesson begins with horse care as Tyler brushes down his horse, cleans her hooves, and saddles her.

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Then he climbs on and has an hour long lesson where he learns the skills of horsemanship while also doing therapeutic work with his equine therapist. He loves it and has made awesome gains.

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He now rides independently with confidence. He can stand in the stirrups, trot and canter.

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Glade Run Adventures has proven to be a great blessing in Tyler’s life!

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Tyler has also acquired a new smile in the last few weeks.

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Once again Tyler’s bottom front tooth broke. A few years ago he chipped that front tooth while on a bouncy pad at a corn maze outing. Since then he has had it repaired many times. Its location and Tyler’s natural bite has resulted in that cap breaking off time after time. The last time it happened his dentist felt it was beyond his scope of ability to fix, fearing the break was too close to the root, so I set up an appointment at Children’s Hospital’s dental department. We went in for a consultation and they had no concerns about their ability to patch it. They also took note of his two canine baby teeth that were holding firm despite the adult teeth pushing in from above and erupting through the gums just north of the firmly held baby teeth. They suggested that we pull those two baby teeth at the same time they were repairing the chipped tooth.

A few weeks ago was the follow-up appointment. Toby took Tyler. For the dental work they used laughing gas and put Tyler into a twilight sleep. Tyler left the appointment having no memory of the experience, the only evidence that anything had happened was his new and improved smile.

He came home eager to show it off and share the good news that the dentist gave him permission to have ice cream for dinner that night.

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Tyler’s look changed even more this week with the addition of glasses.

Yes, you read that right. Tyler is now in glasses, leaving this Momma as the last one standing without spectacles. Toby and all my kiddos now wear glasses in some fashion or another while I continue to hold on proudly to the bragging rights of 20/20 vision.

Last week at Tyler’s annual physical he failed his vision screening. He score 20/20 in one eye and 20/70 in the other so his pediatrician sent us for a more comprehensive eye exam. His appointment was Tuesday morning. We went in and sure enough glasses were in order.

His vision test confirmed a strong right eye, a weak left eye and a stigmatism that led to the recommendation of glasses for Tyler. These glasses won’t need to be worn 24/7 but rather for anything that requires seeing details both near and far (like  school work, computer work, movies, etc.)

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Once the need for glasses was confirmed we heading out to the display cases to pick a style.

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Tyler, who is typically pretty indecisive, knew very quickly the frames he wanted. Once he found the style he liked he didn’t want to try on any others.

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His glasses will be in on Friday and we will officially have another “four-eyes” in the family!

Tyler continue to makes strides in all areas of his life. This has  been a breakthrough year for Tyler, as he has really come into his own. His growth physically, emotionally, behaviorally, socially, and academically have been HUGE.

School has been a dream this year. The struggle is a thing of the past and we can now sit, do lessons, and really have fun with it without the usual battles, bribing, and tears (mine, not his!). It is no longer like pulling teeth. He is engaged, eager, and so much fun. Much of his success comes from the additional reading support he is getting thanks to the Children’s Dyslexia Center of New Castle and Jan Newman, his Barton Reading tutor. This week he passed his level 3 assessment and is now in Barton Reading level 4. This is a HUGE accomplishment and a reflection on how hard Tyler is working.

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Tyler has come so far. He is a delight. My days are so starkly different now than they were two or three years ago that I sometimes forget that things weren’t always this easy with Tyler.

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His is in his Renaissance, fully thriving and finally “settled.”

This past Friday he was invited to a friend’s birthday party from church. Tyler and his best friends went for pizza and laser tag to celebrate Carter’s birthday. It was the first time I was able to simply drop him off with a “Have Fun!” farewell and have no worries. He had a wonderful time.

What joy fills my heart to see my youngest thriving.

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We are so proud of you, Tyler!

Equine Therapy

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horse

In our search for therapeutic tools to help both of our adopted sons heal from the trauma of the past, we stumbled across equine therapy. It has proven to be hugely beneficial in helping patients with PTSD. Our therapists’ office happens to offer equine therapy through one of its sister branches 45 minutes away. This is a different ranch than the one that the older kids are now volunteering at two mornings a week. Ready Yourself Youth Ranch has no openings until spring and I wanted to start the boys before then, so I signed them up for a 6-week session with a certified equine therapist through Glade Run Adventures.

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Saturday was Ozzie and Tyler’s first therapy session.

(Because Ozzie is away receiving treatment for a few months, his lessons will pick back up during the winter months, while Tyler will continue with this 6-week session.)

When we arrived, the boys were each assigned a horse.

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Ozzie was paired with Rosie,

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And Tyler was paired with Smokey.

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Their first task was getting fitted for boots and helmets. Once they were geared up it was time to gear up their horses.

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The therapist walked the boys through the process of grooming their horses. This is a big part of the therapy work, as it creates connection between the rider and the horse. The boys had a good idea of what to do thanks to our visit to RYYR ranch a few weeks ago with our Family Based team.

Next, they learned how to saddle the horses and prepare them for riding.

Soon it was time to mount up and begin the riding lessons.

Since this was both boys’ first time on a horse by themselves the therapist worked on the basics…how to sit, how to hold the reins, how to communicate with the horse, and how to be respectful and kind to the animal they were riding.

Since Ozzie was on the bigger horse, and struggled a bit more with the tasks at hand, the therapists focused her attention on helping Ozzie. She walked him around the ring, while guiding him through his interactions with the horse.

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Tyler took to the lesson a bit more easily. This was due in part to him having a less stubborn and more docile horse. He found his groove quickly and was soon a pro at moving around the ring.

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Both boys did really well and LOVED the experience.

I think it is an unexpected blessing that current circumstances puts them into different 6-week classes. Their needs are very different and what will be worked on from a therapeutic perspective is vastly different. With Tyler, the therapist will focus on the PTSD and the heightened anxiety he is struggling with. With Ozzie, the focus will be on attachment, kind and respectful interactions with animals, and meeting his sensory seeking needs.

While both are signed up for equine therapy to meet vastly different needs, I am certain both will benefit from it. It was nice for them to be able to share this one lesson and connect over a shared experience that the older kids didn’t participate in.

When their lesson time was done they climbed down from their steeds, walking like cowboys from an old western. They were both feeling the effect of working muscles they never have exercised before and were a bit stiff and sore. The instructor told them that was to be expected and it would lessen over time. I couldn’t help but smile as they moseyed out of the barn bowlegged and shuffling.

Their legs may have ached more than ever, but they left with their hearts aching a little bit less…

And that is a huge blessing.

The road less traveled

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 Jim Fisher has been quoted as saying:

“Not a moment of life is wasted on a farm. Others have been more places but none have out lived me.”

Recently one of the government employees in charge of Ozzie’s care and well-being asked us to justify our life style choice and explain why we felt growing up in the country was the best life choice for Ozzie. The words were spoken with obvious disdain by someone who was more familiar and comfortable with city life than life on a farm. It saddens me when people, who have little understanding of our lifestyle, pass judgment on it.  Whether we are addressing the fact that we home school, have adopted, live without cable, raise animals, don’t buy our children cell phones, or expect our children to participate in the well-being of our family unit through daily chores; there are always some that express the feelings that we are somehow doing our children a disservice by not buying into the world’s definition of what a happy childhood looks like.

We have chosen to take the road less traveled.

It has been expressed by others that our lifestyle choice is a selfish one, and that our children are missing out…on what, I’m not sure…but here are some of the great blessings that have come from this life we have been blessed with…

My children have known the joy of holding a baby animal, just minutes old, as well as the profound experience of holding an animal as it takes its last breath.

My children have come to understand that their food doesn’t just come from a supermarket shelf but from the sweat and labor of hard work.

My children have felt the earth between their toes and dirt beneath their nails as they have planted seeds in the ground.

They have experienced the faith of waiting on a seed to sprout and the labor of caring for and reaping the benefits of a garden.

My children have created life long, belly-laugh memories as they have chased goats off the roof and pigs off the highway.

My children have eaten eggs, hours old, and fudge made from the goat’s milk they collected themselves.

My children have experienced the childhood magic of laying under the stars, building tree houses, splashing in creeks, and catching frogs.

They have learned the lessons of hard work and diligence. They have split wood, stacked logs and raked hay.

My children have chores.

They wash clothes, cook meals, tend animals, and clean up their messes. We don’t give our children chores because we hate them or because we are too lazy to do it ourselves. We give our children chores so that they can experience the satisfaction of a job well done.

My children have been told “No” and have experienced the disappointment of not getting what they want…not because we love to disappoint them but because we are training them to be grateful rather than entitled.

My children have learned, through opportunities to serve, that the greatest joy in life comes from thinking of others before yourself.

My home is not perfect. It is often dirty, noisy, and smells of animals.

My children, also, are often dirty, noisy and smell of animals. 🙂

But, they are happy

and they are kind.

My life is not perfect or pristine. Perhaps in the eyes of the world this life I choose to live is less than ideal,

but I have seen great blessings come from this life I have chosen and this life we have chosen to give our children.

Molly and Pop pop

Molly and Pop pop

On Saturday we went to visit our second favorite farm, The Homestead. We traveled out to Ohio to spend the day with my parents and celebrate a belated Mother’s Day with my mom. It was a picture perfect day. The sun was shining and the temperature was ideal. When we arrived the kids headed to the barn right away to see the animals. Ozzie was eager to say hello to George, the donkey, and the other kids couldn’t wait to hold the two chicks that had just hatched.

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George and Grace

George and Grace

After some fun on the farm we all hopped in the car and drove over to one of our favorite places in Amish Country…

Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery.

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It is a neat Amish store that sells local wares, homemade baked goods, as well as farm animals. When you pull up the first thing you see are goats on the barn roof. (Unlike our goats, they are supposed to be there.) There is a set of stairs for them to climb up on. A pulley system is set up so that you can buy ice cream cones full of feed and send them up onto the roof. Inside the barn there are animals to pet and buy. There are goats, chickens, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks and puppies. We enjoy visiting Hershberger’s any time of the year but it is especially fun in the spring with all of the baby animals.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Rusty and a baby goat

Rusty and a baby goat

One of the most impressive animals at Hershberger’s Farm is Big Ben, the huge Belgian horse that lives there. He is the biggest horse in Holmes County. He measures 19H 3″ tall and 3,006 lb. He is quite the site to see!

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After having our fill of baby animal snuggles we headed next door to the bakery to enjoy a Holmes County delicacy- fry pies. Fry pies are pockets of delicious goodness: a fried, glazed pastry filled with various pie fillings. My parents treated us all to one. The kids had fun choosing their flavor and then tasting each other’s choices. We sat in the shade visiting and watching two baby horses play in the field across the street while we enjoyed our treat.

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We spent the remainder of our day together enjoying fried chicken for lunch, playing games in the yard, and catching up. It was  a wonderful day.

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Perhaps one of the greatest occupational hazards of being human is our propensity to judge each other’s life choices.

Bottle feed or Breast feed

Public school or Home school

City life or Country life

Big family or Small Family

College education or Learn a trade

Working mom or Stay-at-home mom

Whatever the issue, whatever the choice, there seems to be a passionate defense launched by both sides.

I suppose the lesson in all of this is that…

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey

but that is OK,

it’s not their journey to understand.”

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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost