We are gathered under a perfect blue sky. Swallows are swooping and twittering. A single sunflower nods a massive head against the side of a barn. Kathy Sanders and Sue Eulau, the founders of Courageous Connections, have made their dream of an accessible equine therapy program for the community happen. Today is the introductory tour of Courageous Connection’s newly purchased nine-acre farm.
The instructors, volunteers, and staff are turning around and around, trying to take in the bounty.
“This is beautiful…”
“It’s so calm…”
“Picture how it’s going to look,” Sue gestures widely to the clipped fields, covered arena, trim outbuildings, and three barns. “We’ll set up this row of stalls as comfortable places for families to wait and a bathroom. Maybe a play area in the grass.”
“And over there,” Kathy points to a sun-drenched strip of grass, we’ll build the community gardens. “It’ll be a place where seniors and people in wheelchairs can spend time, and will produce food as well.”
Barbara Pardee, who has taken over the planning of the gardens, enthusiastically describes the raised beds, planned produce, and the potential for a sensory garden to the keenly interested volunteers. In minutes, she adds two volunteers to her garden committee.
“I think we’ll put the chickens and small animals over there,” Kathy says, pointing to a fenced yard and barn.
Sue nods and gestures to another paddock and barn. “The minis will go here.”
There is more discussion on the details of making the farm work. Will they need to fence certain areas; what’s the best places for the horses in a snowstorm; should they order more soft brushes; the evacuation plan needs to be posted; areas off-limits to visitors need to be identified, schedules for the horses have to be clearly displayed so that no animal, no matter how willing, is worked too hard.
And then we saunter over to the field holding Courageous Connections two new therapy horses. Ari is a nearly black Arab mare, the dominant horse of the pair. Punkin is a light roan Tennessee Walker. The two have grown up together and are bonded. And they like people.
Their eyes focus on the excited group coming to greet them; their tails swish and they amble right over to the fence.
“These two really like people’s conversation,” Leah Hutchins, the barn manager, says. “They come over and start hanging out, sharing space.”
“Hi Sweetie,” one volunteer murmurs, offering her hand for Ari to smell before stroking her nose. The mare clearly enjoys the greeting; her ears flick forward.
Another horse, Remi, also joined the small herd later in the week. The mini horses, who are of such benefit to children experiencing trauma, will be at the farm shortly.
Sue and Kathy are full on tackling the details to get the new farm up and running in record time. Their efficiency and dedication are completely zeroed in on the expanded resources for individuals who are experiencing physical or emotional challenges. They know that when people who are hurting can learn to greet such beautiful animals, to lean against them for strength and union, their journey to healing and growth will be well begun.
Welcome to the Courageous Connections Farm!
Contributor: Susan Brown