During coffee hour after church a few weeks ago I was speaking with Kate Chappell about her daughter, Sarah’s horse therapy farm in Lyman, Maine. Kate mentioned that one of the things the farm offers are programs for people with PTSD! I have often dreamed of one day operating a little animal therapy farm for traumatized youth so I was immediately fascinated. The offerings are extensive and include organizational/leadership development, team retreats, hippotherapy for people ages two and up with a diagnosed emotional, physical or cognitive disability and riding lessons to the general public.
Kate was so kind to arrange with Sarah (pictured above) an opportunity for me to visit the academy and share it with you here on my blog. My post is focused on the equine enrichment groups and working farmscape education tailored for at-risk youth and young adults, senior citizens, veterans and people in early recovery from addictions.
One of the first things I asked Sarah was if her staff can work with clients whose anxiety was such that it would be a barrier for them to ride a horse? Yes! It’s for that reason among others that the academy offers “ground-based” experiences meaning interactive equine therapy without riding the horses.
The equine-centered experiences are facilitated by credentialed instructors and handlers.
The horses aren’t treated as healing objects but active participants relationally with both individuals and groups. Sarah explained that the horses working with the clients are considered part of their staff. They receive performance reviews and the dignity of each horse is observed and respected to ensure that they are a good match for their program. If the horse’s nature isn’t a proper fit then they do not attempt to force it to be something it is not. Isn’t that lovely? I wish we could all treat ourselves that way.
Sarah and her husband also have draft horses that pull farm equipment for haying and logging. While it seems that all of these horses are beloved pets with a working purpose, they also have pet horses!
Sarah taught me how to do a “horse handshake.”
What became very clear to me during my two hour visit is that mother and daughter Kate and Sarah both dearly love the horses.
What really spoke to me, literally, was the exceptionally loud most-adorable lamb EVER who came running up to me BAHHHH-ing. (Why doesn’t Wayne understand that we need to have a herd of lambs and sheep in our backyard to join our “flock” of chipmunks?!)
Sarah let me into their enclosure and I was filled with such an overwhelming joy just being with the sheep and patting the white fuzzy lamb on its head.
I felt like I could easily spend a day with these docile creatures who provide year-round warmth, inside and out.
My immediate experience is consistent with the overall healing aspect of the farm itself and is one of the many benefits received by those who take part in the working farmscape education. Participants receive both ground-based equine lessons and hands-on farming lessons for vocational training. A certificate is presented upon completion.
I have written in previous posts how thrilled I am to have access to true pasture raised eggs at the organic farm in my town. Well! Sarah’s hens aren’t simply free range or the coveted pasture raised but are in what I will call the elite 100% “free run” category.
I commented to Sarah how nice it is to have access to fresh eggs from happy hens, in reply to which she immediately brought me to a refrigerator inside and handed me a dozen farm-fresh eggs!
Beauty, a miniature horse of a certain age (forty!) who, while technically retired, still provides love and healing companionship.
The farm is a good place to roll in the grass…
…clean up in a dust bath…
…graze in the open field…
…or gaze at the sky.
You can get involved and make a difference in the lives of others (side walkers, lesson assistants and equine assistants) while earning free riding lessons among other benefits! Contact Ally at 207-985-0374 ext. 102 to learn more about the Apprentice Program which is offered at no cost to the volunteers.
For more information about the farm, visit their website Carlisle Academy Maine.
If you would like to learn about making a contribution to the scholarship funds that help fund tuition for those in need please visit Carlisle Charitable Foundation.
Overall just being present on the farm and in the moment had a very calming yet energizing effect on me. Having personally experienced the healing power of animals in relation to my PTSD, I see the farm as a true blessing.
I hope to return for a visit soon, only next time with Wayne. I think he needs to meet a certain little lamb!