Did you know that the phrase “Healing Horses” has multiple meanings?

At Hope for Horses, which was officially sanctioned as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1999, staff and volunteers help heal unwanted, neglected and abused horses. The sanctuary, whose barns are located in Leicester in Buncombe County, also provides a haven for animals that cannot be adopted.

“Horsemanship is so much more than just riding,” said HFH Vice President and Executive Director Gina Zachary Doan. “It is about learning how to communicate with a horse in a respectful and responsible manner. It is about making choices to obtain a desired outcome. It is caring for tack, for property, for the horse, and for yourself.”

Solstice East, 530 Upper Flat Creek Road in Weaverville, works with Hope for Horses by fostering four of the rescue’s animals. In turn, the horses participate in the nonprofit’s equine therapy program.

During equine therapy, students learn about communication and relationships. The horses provide a powerful mirror for students, reflecting their moods as well as verbal and nonverbal communication from the student. This mirror from the horses enable students to evaluate and change their communication patterns and relationship styles.

Equine therapy has been documented to help teens with self-esteem, empathy, impulse control, independence and problem-solving skills.

When students learn the concepts of pressure and release with horses during a session, they can begin to understand how to apply and respond to similar pressures in relationships with friends and family. With this knowledge, students learn to improve communication and how to be constructively assertive.

Annie’s Place in Canton acts as a foster farm for four of HFH’s rescued animals that participate in Annie’s schooling and 4-H programs.

Annie’s Place offers full care pasture board, horses for lease and horsemanship lessons. The farm also sponsors a local equestrian group, Adult Riding Club of WNC.

“Annie’s Place is focused on a strong foundation when teaching students to ride. What better place to start than 4-H. 4-H is the largest youth organization in the United States with more than 7 million participants,” said Zachary Doan.”

The four Hs represent Head, Heart, Hands and Health. In 4-H, students get to learn by doing and meet new friends that share similar interests.

Le Cheval is a brand new program expected to launch at HFHs in January. The project will be tailored to home-school groups.

The project combines horsemanship and academic learning.

Le Cheval, which means “the horse” in French, is designed for home-school students in grades 4 through 8. The focus of the program is not on training a horse or taking riding lessons. Rather, it focuses on learning skills for the participating home-school student.

“We propose learning by combining the motivational qualities of the horse and typical academic challenges. Although learning is very individual, the skills we promote through this program include social emotional learning, logical thinking, communication and socialization, friendship building, goal setting, sports and exercise, language arts, self-care, math and calculation, behavioral adaptation, play performance and leadership,” Zachary Doan said.

Le Cheval challenges students to learn to learn by actively engaging in experiences that challenge and stimulate the mind, heart and soul.

“We believe that our rescue horses can do just that,” added Zachary Doan. “Students learn about the horse while gaining insight about themselves. They develop a bond with our horses that, in turn, prompts self-expression and social competence. They nuzzle with our horses while the softness translates into a positive attitude and a receptive mind.”

For more information on Hope for Horses, visit homesforhorses.org/.

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