Getting Rescued at Alpine Ridge
There’s a lot happening at Alpine Ridge Farm. Horses crunch hay from feed bags and sidestep churned-up mud from yesterday’s rain. Swallows swoop from the barns in frantic forays to feed their hatchlings. Volunteers stride between paddocks, checking on the rescue horses, minis, and donkeys, making sure all is well.
Sue Eulau, an instructor and board member with Courageous Connections, gives me the tour. She points to Spitfire, a rescued, shaggy-coated mini horse standing in the arena. The horse is blind but closely bonded with Merrylegs, another mini. “We don’t use them in classes because he might accidentally bump into the kids. He gets agitated if Merrylegs is not close by. But sometimes we take the kids in to groom them and talk about how we all feel anxious at times, just like Spitfire.”
We move on to the next paddock where another small horse regards us consideringly. He came to Alpine six months ago and was too frightened to be near people. Now he will let volunteers into his pen and even take a carrot from the staff’s hands. As Sue tells his story, he lifts his head and then takes a few steps in my direction.
“Look at that!” Sue exclaims. “He’s coming toward you. That’s huge.”
It doesn’t take long to realize at least two big things happen at the farm. Horses, minis, and donkeys that have been abused are being cared for, socialized, and learning to trust; kids and teens who have experienced trauma are learning to trust themselves.
“We never ask them about it,” Kathy Sanders, the president of CC told me earlier. “Sometimes they tell us, but our work is to give them the joy of connecting with a horse, learning to communicate with them, and building confidence.”
The idea is that when hurting kids can reach out to these animals, they learn confidence and trust in themselves. “It’s a game of communication,” Sue says. “Building a partnership. The kids push out of their comfort zone to communicate with the horses.”
And they do. As the kids reach out to the horses, they unwrap arms from tense bodies, their smiles become more frequent, and they become better able to face a tough world. Foreheads are leaned toward the comfort of warm horse faces and shoulders.
There’s a lot happening here.
Contributing Author: Susan Brown