Horses are amazing teachers

Horses teach responsibility. They instill trust and respect. They motivate our students to learn and help them become stronger, more confident and balanced. And they do it all without speaking a word. It is this combination of qualities that we harness to develop meaningful and relevant programs for students. Today we collaborate with more than 60 schools and organizations on programs customized to their needs.

“I think this experience at Fieldstone could change the whole trajectory of our students’ lives in a really positive way,” says Julie Meese, Intervention Specialist at Cleveland Heights/University Heights School District.

“Being around horses and the farm transformed our students. They had a different energy. They were respectful and gentle with the horses and so proud of learning to ride,” says Amy Btiebet, Director of Programming, Open Doors Academy.

For more information about our programs with schools and organizations, please click here.

Summer finds success

For Summer, one of the students at Gaitway High School, our horses helped her when she needed it most. She was experiencing difficulty at her high school and coming to Gaitway High School made her feel comfortable at school again. The small class size, individualized lesson plans and farm environment helped her to succeed. She says the horses calm her. She also bursts with pride when she talks about how she leads horses for other school students during their lessons. “I love the kids and it feels good that the teachers and parents trust me with this responsibility.”

Today 61 students have graduated from Gaitway High School, the alternative school on-site which helps students who are struggling in a traditional school environment. For more information about Gaitway, please click here.

Katherine finds great friends

Katherine came to Fieldstone Farm to help develop her social skills and overcome a fear of animals. She now has a great group of friends at the barn, loves the horses and is able to control her horse independently at a trot. The confidence and trust she has gained by working with the horses, has helped in all aspects of her life.

“The girls are very good friends. When I see them laugh together and have fun it is such a pleasure. Katherine can’t wait for her Wednesday lessons. Riding is the highlight of her week,” says Cheryl, mother of Katherine, who has Down Syndrome.

Frankie helps Lilyana heal

At the age of four, Lilyana was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease that was painful and affected her ability to walk, climb stairs and use her hands. She had to undergo frequent hospital treatments which brought her to tears and left her very weak. It was a lot for a little girl and her family to withstand.

But then, our horses changed everything. Lilyana came to Fieldstone Farm, worked with our therapy horses and forgot she was sick. Her mom loved seeing her daughter relaxed, happy and having fun without knowing she was experiencing therapy. It was the escape that her daughter needed.

Lilyana worked with our licensed physical therapists who used the motion of the horse to build her strength and balance. She made dramatic progress gaining core and leg strength and quickly advanced to riding independently.

Today, Lilyana is in remission and continues to ride, competes in our various horse shows and dreams of owning a horse one day. Lilyana is one of more than 1,300 students who benefit from the healing powers of our horses each year.

Audrey reaches her goals

“Audrey has made amazing progress since she started riding. She used to speak in one or two word sentences and now she can sing songs and string five and six words together.” – Susan, Audrey’s mom, who also is an occupational therapist

Audrey came to Fieldstone Farm because her speech therapist and her mom thought riding would help her gain the core strength to better express herself verbally. And while her speech has improved dramatically, she is also realizing other goals in socialization, independence and coordination.

Open Doors students gain confidence

Open Doors Academy brings students to Fieldstone Farm every summer to learn and grow from our horses. They work to build confidence, trust and respect while grooming and riding our horses each day.

Learning to control a 1,000-pound animal at a trot can be extremely empowering for these kids. And while grooming, students connect with the horses finding comfort and strength. For some students, working with horses can immediately impact their attitude toward learning and participating in a group.

“Being around horses and the farm transforms our students. They have a different energy at Fieldstone Farm. They are respectful and gentle with the horses and so proud of learning to ride,” said Amy Btiebet of Open Doors Academy, adding that Fieldstone Farm’s camp is one of their most popular camps of the summer.

Many of these kids have never had the opportunity to leave the city and enjoy a farm. They walk out our barn doors with a greater belief in themselves and an experience that they will remember for a lifetime.

Horses give Brian strength

When Brian started riding at Fieldstone Farm at age four to help with his cerebral palsy, he had no idea how horses would change his life. Riding helped him gain strength and balance so now at the age of 19, he walks with just a slight limp. Brian also developed an emotional bond with the horses that gave him confidence and acceptance no matter what else he faced in his life.

And it was through volunteering with the other riders that he learned he wanted horses in his life forever.

He was inspired by another rider named Wayne, who found joy in everyday life despite his challenges. Over the years, their friendship grew and together they learned the power of trust, teamwork and belief in themselves.

Now Brian is pursuing a career in horses and is studying therapeutic riding at Lake Erie College.

Brian is one of thousands who have discovered their potential at Fieldstone Farm.

Horses give Kathy strength and peace

Kathy was leading a full life in Lexington, Kentucky. She was teaching English at a small private college, working in admissions at an equine hospital nearby and riding her horse whenever she could get the chance.

Then one weekend she started to feel really sick. By that Monday she was in the hospital and diagnosed with leukemia. Soon she was transported to a major cancer hospital. A bone marrow transplant was her only chance for life. She needed a donor. Her family didn’t match so she turned to an international donor database and a 25-year-old woman in Europe was an exact match. She was overjoyed and received her bone marrow transplant.

Soon after, she moved home to Cleveland. She was determined to regain her strength and ride horses again. She learned about Fieldstone Farm from a friend and read about the partnership with The Gathering Place and thought maybe there was a chance she could join a class.

She started riding last year and has been getting stronger by the week. When she is at Fieldstone Farm she forgets all about her illness. She is in the moment, riding and working with horses, her love. She says riding settles her. It gives her peace, confidence and direction. She also has developed her core strength and balance. She loves working with the horses so much that she is now learning to carriage drive, and even volunteers to help other participants at the farm.

Kathy always knew horses would be part of her life, but she never knew how they would change her life in such an important way.

Wayne finds more than friendship

Wayne was exhausted from his multiple therapy sessions for his cerebral palsy. His family longed for an alternative therapy where he could grow stronger while having fun. Then they found Fieldstone Farm.

Riding horses has helped Wayne build strength and balance. Our horses have even inspired him to speak. “Whoa” is now part of his vocabulary. And his confidence has soared. He rides around the farm sitting tall with a smile from ear-to-ear. The joy he feels with horses is immeasurable.

But horses became even more important to Wayne when his father suddenly died. They intuitively knew his sadness and gave him comfort, support and peace.

Wayne is one of thousands who have found a home at Fieldstone Farm.

His mother Tammy says, “We can’t imagine a life without horses for Wayne.”

Anna Mary gains strength and happiness

Anna Mary has cerebral palsy and spends a good part of her day in a wheelchair looking up at the world. When she comes to Fieldstone Farm she is able to get out of her chair and up on horse and see the world in a whole new perspective. “You can just see her eyes brighten as she gets on the horse,” says Bobbin Davis, a licensed physical therapist who has used the movement of a horse to help Anna Mary build strength and endurance.

Anna Mary has made significant progress since she started in our hippotherapy program about two years ago. Her increased core strength from riding transfers into other aspects of her life. She is able to stand up longer, walk further and she has improved her posture and flexibility.

Riding also helps her bone health because it is a weight-bearing exercise. Feeling the horse walking underneath her helps her feel the sensation of a walking gait. Ultimately this could help her learn to walk on her own someday.

The movement has even helped her to start speaking. Her Mom says after several weeks of riding, Anna Mary would wake up in the middle of the night and start saying audible words such as “ma, ma, ma,” and “ba, ba, ba.” Her speech therapist attributes the increased language to Anna Mary learning to push air through her diaphragm because of her physical therapy on the horse.

When you ask Anna Mary’s Mom about her daughter’s experience at Fieldstone Farm, she lights up. It feels so good to see her smiling, her mom says. She is so happy on a horse. When they turn onto Snyder Road, Anna Mary gets very excited because she knows she is near the farm. Anna Mary has always loved horses and coming to the farm and working with horses has opened up a whole new world for her. She is more confident and feels Fieldstone Farm is a place where she belongs. It is a place in which she can participate in a sport just like her siblings.