Horses that heal help kids cope with loss - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Horses that heal help kids cope with loss

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SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa (KTIV) -

Horses, as a part of their nature do a lot of nagging, but they can also be the best of listeners. That's why they're being used for therapy to help kids deal with death.

"I just love horses, like I've always loved them," Jennifer Huisenga said.

14-year-old Jennifer who has recently lost her mother is one of about 20 kids at Camp Hearts' N Hooves. It's a camp designed for kids to learn how to deal with grief through horse therapy.

"I thought it would be a really good idea to come out here and meet people who have like the same differences and stuff," Huisenga said.

So far, Jennifer has been able to open up and talk to kids her age like Autumn Petska who understands those differences she's talking about.

"People have their parents and then they always talk about them and how fun they are and then you're just sitting in the back going umm I wish that was me or something," Autumn Petska said

Making new friends, and learning new ways to heal is what Camp Hearts' N Hooves is all about.

"The camp is focused around equine assisted psycho therapy and utilizing the horses as a partner in providing grief assistance to our children that are grieving the lost of a loved one," Lynnea Andersen, the Director of Bereavement Care with Iowa Hospice said.

Andersen says horses allow kids to let their guard down, and activities like brushing and combing the horse helps decrease their anxiety.

Autumn describes working with the horses as something that is soothing.

"Well it kind of takes your mind off of everything and you're like having fun," Petska said.

Josh Carr is the Executive Director of Camp Foster, and also takes care of the horses. He says horses are a lot like people that's why it's a natural fit to use them as part of therapy.

"They're very in-tuned to our emotions because horses have emotions too, so if they're scared an we're scared --it's kind of like a buddy, you're a partner I think horses and people were meant to be one," Carr said.

The program was started in 2008, and Andersen has been working with the Iowa Hospice to expand it across the state.

"A lot of times we have kids that start with us and they really aren't able to communicate what their needs are with us until the end of camp. And I've had parents say that they wouldn't talk at all until she came to camp and then she was able to tell her mom about her feelings about her dad that had passed away," Andersen said

Meanwhile, Jennifer says she's already benefited from the program by finding new friends.

"We're definitely going to stay in touch and maybe get together sometime," Huisenga said.

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