“We’re actually trailblazers,” Kathy Sanders, president of Courageous Connections explains. “There are lots of people doing equine riding therapy, but our program is different. We’re unique.”
Courageous Connections is a non-profit organization that pairs children and adults coping with traumatic emotional or physical issues with specially-trained horses. The clients groom, lead, and interact with the horses – not on their backs, but through hands-on guided activities. Certified Equine Specialists help the clients take these life-changing first steps to bond with the horses.
As Kathy shows me the meticulously maintained barn, the comforting aroma of horses and hay fills the air. The stalls are big, decorated with horseshoes and wooden plaques bearing the horses’ names. At the moment the barn is empty – the horses are relaxing in the pasture, lazily cropping the last summer grass. A dog barks in the field beside them. Tres flips his tail but his eyes are fixed on Kathy as we walk beside the fence.
She tells me about some of the people they serve – an autistic boy, for example, who for the first time in months started talking as he interacted with the horse. From bullied students to women escaping domestic abuse, the clients are as varied as the problems all of us face, and sometimes need a lot of help in overcoming.
Kathy claps her hands and calls, and Snazee gallops down the field towards us, ears flicking, hooves thumping in the soft earth. “She doesn’t always come just because I clap my hands,” Kathy says with a laugh. “Horses aren’t programed to want to please us. We have to earn their respect and trust.”
That is the secret of Courageous Connections. As the clients build a connection to their horse, they build a greater sense of trust in themselves and, with the help of the equine specialists, learn to take the first steps in facing a difficult world.
When you donate to Courageous Connections, your generosity funds food and care for the horses as well as valuable scholarships so that our neighbors who need these services, are able to receive them regardless of ability to pay.
Credit to Contributing Author: Susan Brown