Tuesday, February 13, 2007


"Horses, Kids Find Hope At Salem...."

I came back early from my trip b/c of snow and want to share what it was all about. But I need to look over pictures and get my thoughts together. In the meantime, I received the most recent Salem newsletter and thought I'd share one of the stories about an exciting new venture in the Horse Therapy program there. It touched me.... and I think it's going to be wonderful for the children.....


"Within every heart there exists a special place, a place where the hopes and dreams of the soul soar, unchained by logical or physical entrapments... It is a place where the impossible flourishes, where dreams survive the inferno of reality to become the miraculous wonders that draw us forward- it is the place where hope rises. " -Kim Meeder, "Hope Rising"

There are so many ways to destroy hope.

Children and animals are more vulnerable than most. For them, even a good meal comes at the whim of someone in charge, and there is little they can do to escape abuse at the hands of their caregivers.

For years, horses at Salem have found their way past the pain into our children's hearts as healers, helping them toward compassion, trust, confidence, responsibility, hope, and the freedom to fly.

And now, with two newcomers in the stable who were abused themselves, a new chapter has opened. The healers themselves need healing, and two of our young ladies have already begun the journey with them.

Otto and Percy came to Salem from At Last Farms in Oakland last month on a free lease basis, and may stay as long as they are needed. They had already begun to benefit from therapeutic care at the rescue center.

Otto is a Belgian, a huge draft horse. Much of his history is unknown, but the scars on his body, the marks of an electric cattle prod, a piece missing from his ear, and this giant's initial fear of humans tells an all-too-familiar story of abuse. At 17.3 hands high, he was severely underweight when purchased at an auction last summer in July. Since then he has gained 300 pounds and, at about 1500 pounds, is within 200-300 pounds of his ideal weight.

Percy is a thoroughbred, a former race horse abandoned by his owners when he could no longer earn enough money to save his life. He, too, was rescued by At Last farms at an auction where he had been destined for slaughter, four years ago. Percy was in such poor health and so weak that he could barely stand; so thin that his ribs hung from his backbone in a hollowed-out row and his sides were invisible from the front. Since the auction he has done well; his health has improved dramatically and he has continued to gain weight. Most important, he is, like Otto, gentle and affectionate.

Both horses can be ridden by beginners, and our two human angels are eagerly awaiting the day when they can saddle up and share that first trip mounted. But all Salem horses must be in residence for a month before being ridden by kids, and Camille and Maria(names changed for privacy) are redeeming the time by reaching across the gulf of pain and abuse with love and care and words of kindness.

"Salem has given these two horses more hope and desire for life by presenting them with the job of teaching and healing children who have been abused and neglected, " said Instructor Charlotte Stimmell. "These horses can now help heal human hearts as their own have been helped to heal."

"Sometimes it is only through devastation that we find the truth," writes Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch owner Kim Meeder in her book Hope Rising. "Hardship can be like a savage cleansing fire. All the things we think as necessary to our survival are soon revealed as nothing more than the dross of complacent luxury, consumed by the fire as it burns down to the true metal of the soul. Hardship uncovers the only thing we truly need to survive- HOPE."

For these horses and these girls, hope rises out of the devastation. "What once needed healing now gives healing. What was once broken has now been restored. What was once lost is now found." (Meeder)

12 comments:

kirsten said...

I know I'm fairly new to reading your blog, but I must saying ... everything I've read thus far about the work you are engaged in touches me & I love hearing the ways in which precious human hearts are mended.

Thanks so much for sharing!

bluemountainmama said...

thanks kirsten...i'm glad that you are continuing to read....
and i'm not currently engaged in that work as we moved and i have chosen to spend this last year before my son starts school, at home with him. we are still a resource family for a resident at salem...she visits with us once a month....so i stay connected that way... and through my co-workers and former students there that i still stay in touch with.

kirsten said...

Gotcha! Thank you for clarifying that for me. :o) All the pieces of previous posts are melding their way together in my head ...

Either way, it's a blessing to read about a place and people who are very close to your heart.

Christianne said...

I agree. I've found such kinship in the thoughts you've shared on this page, even in the short time I've known of it. This post, in particular, brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it. And for sharing the photo.

Rosie said...

It's a win/win situation for sure. Being involved in rescue, I love it that these horses find a job suitable to their inherent nobility.

I don't play, but I did build a dulcimer once. I used to play guitar, mandolin and appalachian style autoharp before my hands went. I played flute, but my embouchure has now left me as well.

busybusymomma said...

Wow, that sounds so incredible.. what an amazing thing to be involved in, in any way. :o)

Anna said...

I can't wait to hear about your trip and see some pics! This is a wonderful post. I was an avid rider as a child and it completely changed my life. What a blessing this program will be...

and YES...I am up late! :)

Corey Bienert said...

Thanks for the tip! :)

Andrea said...

what a beautiful way of connecting abused animals and children--a wonderful idea.

photowannabe said...

Beautiful and touching. i have a friend that has a stable here in Northern California that they use for retarded and children with various other difficulities. The Horse therapy reallhas worked so well.

Ash said...

Nice post!

Carmi said...

There is a long-established therapeutic riding camp in the country near my house. I can't put into words how much impact they have had on so many lives.

It's inspiring to watch. Your entry reminds me why this matters so much.