Hope, Horses & Kids was invited to work the Rodeo and other events back in 2014. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but we were thankful for the opportunity. It ended up being, by far, one of the most enjoyable things we do as an organization. It's hard work, takes a lot of volunteers, but is definitely our favorite fundraiser of the year. The dedication of the Rodeo volunteers and everyone involved in the California Rodeo Association never fails to impress me. I was not aware of how important the Rodeo is to our local non-profits until we became one of the lucky non-profits! We were able to raise enough money to help us expand our programming and serve more kids. Hope, Horses & Kids is an equine assisted learning program that serves nearly 300 students a year. We serve those who live with the challenges of:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit Disorder
Because we work with so many groups (HHK currently serves the special ed classes of every high school in Salinas; most of these groups don't pay for services) we often don't get to see the changes that occur in the kids from working with the horses. We rely on stories from staff and teachers. One of our students was mostly non-verbal and had balance issues, as well as some fear around the horses. She came every week with the class and got more confident. In addition to working directly with the horses, we utilize our vaulting barrel, our mounting block (walking up and down the steps) and other equipment to help with balance and core strength issues. When I spoke with the teacher last week, he relayed to me that this young lady was now going up and down the steps to the bus without any hesitation. This had been a big issue prior to her weekly visits to HHK and he attributes her success to the work we do at the barn.
We also added a mental health component to our programming last year, Equine Assisted Therapy. Our mental health group clients arrive to the HHK facilities with licensed therapists who utilize our horses to perform therapy, often using the horse as a metaphor for other life obstacles or challenges. The goal is always to build coping skills, but also to strengthen self-confidence. The horses are trained to depend upon humans to be the leader, however when a horse “takes over” that means the horse does not trust his leader. One week, a teen female client was upset with Duncan because he was clearly demonstrating he did not trust her leadership by acting out. The following week, this client improved her stance, stood firm, and followed HHK’s instruction for how to set strong boundaries with the horse. She exclaimed, “Wow, he is behaving really well today!” But, our HHK instructor pointed out, “Actually, that is all because you changed YOUR behavior!”
The above stories are just a couple of examples how our equine assistants are able to help a wide variety of individuals. There are many more such stories, but it's something that is much easier understood by observing. We invite our community to come and take a tour and watch some of our sessions. We are very proud of our horses and facility and love to have visitors.
We could not do the work we do without the support of organizations like the California Rodeo Association. I can't say enough good things about the people who are part of the Rodeo. Thank you! Looking forward to 2018!
Hope, Horses & Kids