There is much we want to do with the Veteran's program in order to make it fun for both people and horses. All nine of our horses participate in the program (ages 2-23). They seem to take pride in sharing their unique talent with the veterans and their families.
The horses freely roam on 80 acres of pasture that are divided into 5 large paddocks. A large part of the therapy involves the serene atmosphere of this lovely property. The quiet beauty is unforgettable.
The entrance to the first field is a steep hill that requires 4-wheel drive to traverse. Although our quad (4-wheeler) is the large, farm style (not a toy), it finds the wagon a bit heavy to haul up the hill. So, we all walk up the hill. Even in the rain, our guests laugh and play as they climb up and see the beautiful views. Once at the top, we load everyone into the wagon that Ben and our neighbor, Bill built and take off like we're on Safari. Everyone grins and some of them yell, "faster!" as we bounce across the hillside searching for the horses.
A number of variables determine what activities we do with the horses on a given visit. First, we consider the ages, health, and previous horse experience of our guests. Then there's the weather. Families actually come out in the rain and even in the bitter, sub-zero winds and snow. (We do not advise this for most families.) Finally, there are the horses to consider. Like humans, they have good days and not so good days. For example, they can be disturbed by someone hunting in the area. Most of the time, they're calm and eager to greet our guests, and some of them volunteer to give pony rides.
Treats for the horses are not allowed, because they could cause a dangerous situation for our guests. Our horses are large and sometimes compete for attention, most especially the young ones.
Sometimes, we play games with the horses. We are students of Parelli Natural Horsemanship. Other times, we feed the horses their meal and visit with them in their food pens or "stalls". Since each visit is unique, the horses never get bored.
Our guests find their adventure exciting and emotionally renewing.
Julia, John, Johnny, Jenna, Jazzy, and Juli came one day for a most wonderful visit with Jocelyn and me.
The following is an excerpt from Julia's Blog:
This day was so amazing!! We were lucky enough to be able to visit Serenity Equestrian Center in Cortland NY, and it was just the most amazing experience!! The kids loved it, and Juli was talking to the horses and everything!! 8 yo Johnny and this one young stallion, Endy, really hit it off, and it was so funny, cause Endy was whiffing in his hair, nibbling his shoelaces and even nibbled his hair! 5 yo Jazzy and 7 yo Jenna were in horse heaven! And honestly, even John and I had a great time!! It was so beautiful!
We got loaded in her truck and Gayla drove us up to the pasture, and the 1st thing we top this hill, with an amazing view, and what do we see soaring above us.....a BALD EAGLE!!!!!!!! NO LIE!!!!!!! It was WOW!!!!! And the view was just spectacular! Then we saw the horses..........they were HUGE!!!!!! I'd never been up close with a big horse before, except like at the state fair, and I thought I'd be scared at first, but they were just so cool!!! The two young stallions were actually the most attentive to the kids the whole time!!! We got to meet the herd and pet them and everything!!! It was so neat, one even got like jealous and shoved another one like "HEY! I got here 1st, they're MY people!" it was so cool!
The horses heads were bigger than all of Julianna!!! I thought she'd be scared, but in a few minutes she was shooing flies off them and petting them and talking to them!!!!! They even tickled her neck!!!! They'd come over and like breath on you and wiggle their lips on you!!!! it was the coolest thing EVER!!!!!!
It was really an amazing experience.......we spent like two hours there with the horses!!!!!! Gayla and her daughter Jocelyn were so nice, and just really made us feel comfortable, and we all got really awesome pictures too!!! I can't wait til we can visit them all again! Anyone going that way, I highly recommend Serenity Equestrian Center!!!!