Two Hearts Horsemanship begins and ends with one goal: love. Love of children, love of horses, love of each other. Too often, the children who enter the program haven’t experienced unconditional love that is constant and true. An animal can provide that kind of emotional connection and encourage the child to open up, allowing the healing process to begin.
Through the 15 horses in the program (most of which were rescued themselves), Two Hearts is able to serve 30 residents of Sunshine Acres in a unique triangle of support that includes one child, one horse, and one adult mentor. Unlike traditional counseling that asks questions, expects answers, and has a specific goal in mind, Two Hearts is focused on building relationships, confidence, and trust. There is no push to have things happen within a certain timeline. Instead, given the right atmosphere and support, they just occur naturally.
Children meet with their mentor and horse once each week in 90-minute sessions. They learn about natural horsemanship, care of the horses, and riding skills in the stable, arena, and open field. Two Hearts has both large and miniature horses on site, so children are given the freedom to choose their horse based on comfort level and innate connections. Often, the children find that they have partnered with a horse that shares their unique story, building on the natural connection. Through their interactions and time together, conversations arise—about school, home, and life. Children open up and begin to trust again on their road to healing.
In this warm family setting, children and horses play games, laugh, sing, exercise, and get dirty. Kids get to be kids, and that’s when they’re most prone to growth: when they feel safe and loved.
The driving components of the program are vision, excellence, unity, and love.
Through open, nonjudgmental conversations between the child and mentor, children learn what it means to have a vision for their futures. They talk about having dreams, building relationships, and developing trust. They share their vision with their horse and develop bonds they may have never experienced previously.
Although a vision for the future is imperative, if a child isn’t really working toward that vision, he will only be disappointed. Through natural horsemanship, children are encouraged to aspire for excellence. The question “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” is a powerful one, and with the support of these gentle giants and loving mentors, children are able to experience personal excellence, perhaps for the first time in their lives.
There is an indescribable bond formed when a child connects with a half-ton horse. For a child who hasn’t made many lasting relationships or learned to trust, each little step can represent a bit of a miracle. And because the mentor is right there alongside the child and animal, that bond extends, creating a union that can break through scars and begin to heal.
Unconditional love is one of the strongest emotions we have, and one that eludes far too many children who have lived a life of fear and uncertainty. Horses don’t judge children on their pasts, regardless of what they’ve done and where they’ve been. Through the amazing bond that is built in the arena and on the trails, children at Two Hearts Horsemanship feel true unconditional love and know that they matter.
Adult mentors who work with the children and horses are trained to learn how to maximize their time with the children and use what they’re learning in the program to draw parallels with life experiences. All volunteers complete 45 hours of training each year, including:
- Trauma release
- Horsemanship 101: mechanics
- Connecting with children on a deeper level
The culture of Two Hearts Horsemanship is centered on faith and family. Through working with the horses and caring adults, children are taken back to a simpler time when relationships were the center of life and fellowship connected people to make a difference.