Updated: Apr 1
It all started during a trail ride with cousins Sue Eulau and Kathy Sanders. Both women were ending their current careers and pondering out loud about what the next big adventure could be.
As the horses trotted along, Sue asked, “If you could do anything, what would it be?”
Sue shared that she dreamed of a place where people-young and old with different abilities and challenges could come together to support and learn from each other. Kathy mulled over her greatest passion and the answer became crystal clear. “Horses,” she said. “I want to give people who don’t have access to horses the opportunity to experience these magnificent beings up close. Horses have so much to teach us if we take the time to just be with them and listen."
Sue agreed and right there the idea for Courageous Connections was born. The cousins were determined that people struggling with challenges or trauma of any kind would be offered the chance to work with trained horses and instructors to build their resilience through a connection with the magnificent animals.
“At first I could hardly breathe,” Kathy, a career project planner, said. “My head wanted to blow up with the logistics. The horses, facilities, insurance…everything.”
Sue, an oncology nurse, held out for the practical course. “Three steps,” she said. “What are the first three steps? We’ll just take the first three steps and when/if we get past those we will take the next three steps.”
Using that as their get-started mantra, the cousins mapped out the first three steps, agreeing that if they hit an immovable wall at any point, that would mean it wasn’t “meant to be”.
Instead of plunging in, they began researching and learning about running a successful nonprofit. Kathy and Sue spent a year visiting other equine therapy organizations, and getting their certifications. Most important were their interviews with the nonprofits that failed – what had been the breaking points?
Committed to responsible financial practices, six years ago they applied for and, in record time, received their nonprofit status. Community members stepped up to offer horses, facilities, equipment at no charge, as well as hundreds of hours of volunteer work to support their vision. Despite the pandemic’s restrictions, the program grew quickly as word spread among therapists, other organizations, and the community.
”We were (and are) incredibly fortunate to have a board of directors with diverse experience to help us achieve our mission, but in spite of that, we occasionally did run into some roadblocks” Kathy explained. “However, sometimes the most random things would fall in our laps. Just when we thought we had exhausted all our avenues, something always seemed to come out of left field. For example, our growth as an organization resulted in the need for more help, horses, and a larger facility. At just the perfect time, we got a call from someone who wanted to be an instructor – AND, she was a board member at a local rescue farm for mini horses.” Kathy’s eyes light up. “We could never have planned that. H.O.M.E (Helping Our Miniature Equines) offered us a lease for the use of their horses and facilities which has enabled us to grow our program three or four times over.”
The program is still growing. Word continues to spread. And the vision that started on that spring day, riding Tres and Snazee, continues to thrive.
A great adventure bearing wonderful fruit. Step by step.
Contributing Author: Susan Brown