Mail Time!

501c3God knew we need some good news this week.  And, as usual, He delivered!  As some of you know, we have been waiting for some time to receive our tax exempt status.  Woohoo! It arrived today.  Excel Kids is an officially a tax exempt 501 (c)(3) public charity. 

Thank you all who have been helping us along the way.  In this case, we want to especially thank Avi Lev, of Hinckley Allen for donating his time and incredible expertise.  He was very patient and thoughtful in advising us regarding proper completion of the application.  I am positive without his wisdom, we would have ended up in the “needs further clarification” cycle with the IRS.   With Avi’s counsel, we were approved the first time.

It is just one more jump we cleared working toward making the vision of a therapy farm a reality.  We can continue moving forward with other business related items and get this thing going!

Other news

In terms of an update, we have just about completed the work to purchase the land and get the farm started.  There are a few loose ends that we are working through, but our hope is to begin work on the land by October.  We will keep you all posted on how things progress.  In the meantime, please keep praying for us!

Timid-Girl Starts to Trust

Hi all! Oreo here! Sorry, it’s been so long since I’ve written, but they’ve been keeping me pretty busy at training. And when I say pretty busy, I mean REALLY busy.

I’ve learned a lot while in boot-camp. Apparently it’s not okay to step on humans’ feet? I had no idea. *blinks innocently*

But all that I have learned is only half of the equation, my human has to learn along with me… and she’s a timid little thing. On the ground, I can feel her heart beat softly and slowly, but boy howdy does it change once her boots hit the stirrups.

Now that I know what the humans are asking when they kick and gently tug on the bit, I feel much more… calm. Not that I was ever rowdy, psh! But really, knowing what to do has changed everything!

But Timid-Girl was not always clear with what she wants me to do… Her heels and mouth said “go”, but every muscle in her body screamed “I’m not ready!” Really, you’d have thought she was a solid block of ice from the stiffness in her limbs.

And as soon we’d start actually going, her heart would start hammering out of her chest and her hands would fly up in fear. So… was she telling me to stop or go? I was a tad bit confused to say the least.

But how could I assure her I wasn’t going to hurt her? How could I obey and still help her feel safe?

It’s taken four separate sessions of kick-go-stop-kick-go-stop, but I finally feel like I’m starting to get through to her. I may know how to canter now, but I’m still the same horse she sat in the stall with when she was too nervous to talk to the other humans. I’m still the same horse she sobbed into when she was shaken up by one of the crazier horses. I’m still the same horse she fell in love with on a freezing afternoon in January. I’m her Oreo!

I just know what horses are supposed to do with humans now.

But, I trust my Timid-Girl and I need her to trust me too, so we will keep working at it. She now is riding like a piece of semi-pliable wood rather than a block of ice! Three whinnies for progress!!!

Her heart is a little slower to start banging away and her body seems to tell me now that she’s willing to give me a shot. As I hear her tell another human the other day, “I’m not afraid to be afraid again.”

Come on, girl. We’ve got this! We’re a herd!

Macey & Carmalee

I was in a wreck with a drunk driver in 2003 and severely injured my right foot. I spent a year in a wheelchair and had multiple surgeries through 2009. I’d gone from the wheelchair to crutches but could barely walk. My physical therapist recommended therapeutic horseback riding (TR) because he thought it might help me learn to walk better with crutches. This appealed to me since I had wanted a horse since the time I was 3. However we lived in a rural village and there was no place to keep a horse not was there any place to take lessons. As I got older I begged rides from friends whenever I could.

Fast forward 45-50 years and I had applied to all of the therapeutic riding centers within an hour of where we live and finally in the spring of 2010 I got a slot at www.horsesforhope.org . My riding day was Monday and I went from hating Monday to looking forward to it. After 6 weeks of lessons I met a friend for lunch who I hadn’t seen since the beginning them. She immediately said how much better my balance and gait were! As I continued to ride I grew stronger, walked better, and began to feel like I was getting my life back. After a year I had progressed to the point where I could even walk short distances with only one crutch! I really wanted to take lessons twice a week but realized I could free lease a horse, board it and ride several times a week for about the same cost of 2 lessons a week.

So, in April 2011 I got Macey. She’s a grade Paso Fino who Dawn, one of the TR instructors, had just gotten. She had been sitting in a pasture for some time and hadn’t been ridden. The farm in front of her had a boarding space open and so Macey settled in there.

carmalee 3

Macey had also been allowed to develop some bad habits in regards to being saddled and mounted. She’d stand quietly as you laid the blanket and saddle across her back but when I tried to tighten the cinch she would pull back if tied or step away from me if I had her by the lead rope. She never tried to bite or kick, just move away. Then when you finally got the cinch tightened she would move away when you tried to mount. Often just getting saddled and on Macey was an hour long process. But Dawn, who had brought me so far in TR lessons really believed that we would develop a partnership. And she was right! Macey has learned to stand to be mounted from the ground and mounting block. She is much better about not moving off as soon as your bottom hits the saddle.

Although she still doesn’t really stand still to get saddled, she is MUCH better than when I got her. I believe that eventually she will get it. When I first got her the only way she would stand tied without pulling back was if another horse was there with her. And you could not do anything with saddling or she’d pull back so hard she broke halters. She now knows how to stand tied to the trailer or a hitching post all by herself for as long as I ask her to.

carmalee 2

And, she is an absolute gem on the trail. Although I can now walk a little bit without crutches I’d be in trouble if I came off and my horse ran off. But, Macey has never bucked, reared, spun or done any maneuver to try and unseat me. The one time I came off she tripped (for an unknown reason) and went to her knees when we were gaiting. I went head first over her shoulder and she stood there looking down at me as to say “Um, Mom, why are you down there?” Macey crosses anything, pushes through brush, stands while I trim overgrowth back from trails, weaves through tight spaces, stands ground tied, self loads and unloads from the trailer and is just everything I could ask for in a trail horse! Did I mention that she is wonderful?

We’ve done barrel racing, pole bending, cow sorting, parades, carried flags, ridden the Tobacco Trail with all the things you encounter there, fun shows, trail rides, obstacle courses, the American Heart Association Beach Ride, horse camping, and trailered to PA to ride up there. We routinely ride along the road and she’s never shied or spooked from a vehicle even when the driver has done something stupid like blow the horn or gun the engine.

carmalee 4

So that leads back to me. Thanks be to God I am much better! I can now walk a little bit without crutches and a long way (we hiked 4 miles last fall) with crutches. I do well enough with 1 crutch that I can lead horses for half hour therapeutic lessons. Macey lets me run again and when I am on her back I’m just like everyone else. In fact, many people that I’ve casually ridden with don’t realize that I have a disability!

aha carmalee

Please consider supporting Carmalee’s fundraiser for the Heart Association as she rides with Macey http://horsebackbeachride.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1129962&supid=408324218

Amber & Anna-May

Beautiful Amber and I met on a farm in North Carolina. When preparing to begin lessons I rode a Quarter Horse. I then transitioned to 15 1/2 hand Amber who is almost pure Thoroughbred. She is beautiful.

When I first began visiting and riding her, I was still recovering from a serious illness. After visiting Mayo Clinic, multiple Duke physicians and sending blood away to multiple institutions, I am informally diagnosed with a rare autoimmune illness. My illness was a neurologic illness that manifested itself psychologically as well as physically. The height of my sickness lasted a few months, until I received treatment that seemed to work wonders for my body. This was only the beginning of my healing. I was damaged in so many ways, losing friends, creating rough memories, and facing a lack of spark for life.

My girl, Amber, entered my life when I was dealing with strong medicine amounts, being self-consciousness about my psychological upheavals of the past, and greatly lacking confidence. The only connection I had with the outside world apart from her was a few hours a week that I would spend volunteering at a local charity, with my immediate family, and an occasional letter or visit with a friend or two every month or so. Often these would be in very controlled environments very different from the all-encompassing heart-to-hearts I was used to.

During my first summer with Amber, I was very silent and afraid. I was burdened by mental confusion and did not know how to handle instruction during lessons. With her, though, I felt instant connection. I would stroke her continuously while riding, feeling her muscles move and feeling the security of her strong legs. I rejoiced in being a brunette with her and saw myself through her eyes of acceptance and love. I brought her a carrot each week (often to the grimace of my instructor). She stole my heart.

My goal for the first few months of sessions was just to enjoy myself and try to develop more self-confidence. I had ridden horses almost every year since the age of 10 as a special treat on my birthdays. Now I got to visit my girl every week.

I continued to ride into the fall and was assigned a new instructor. At first, this disturbed me, but I was ready for a change of pace looking back. My first instructor was a gentle elementary school teacher-type who encouraged me. My new instructor was one who challenged me to reach outside of my bounds in riding. Looking back, changing instructors made me feel Amber was an even more integral part of my life who would not desert me. Other people would come and go, but she was always there to be ridden, accept a carrot, and nuzzle me with a spunky shove.

Once, another horse injured her mildly, and I realized that she could face injury, too. I had a motherly concern for her and the whole week I was away from her, would be up at night wondering if she would be okay. She at that point became my friend and confidante. I now told her how I was doing trying to be outside of earshot of any instructors. I would talk to her with a voice that I feel suited her- a pretty, singsong voice. Her responses were snorts. Yet, they were so beautiful to my ears!

I gradually gained the confidence to progress to trotting for short periods. The moment that posting became second nature, I felt very accomplished. I could truly ride a horse! It was a skill that I was so glad to possess and was obtained through loving encouragement. I then did dressage patterns, challenging my memory for the first time in just over a year. This, alongside a community college course, were some of the first steps in my intellectual recovery. I can’t say that I was glad to be using my brain again, but now am so thankful that I had stepping stones with such soft moss in-between. Amber would complete the tasks I assigned her, working with me as I instructed and took the lead. This gave me extreme confidence in my ability to care for and direct the actions of another.

Just towards the end of this last spring session, I cantered with Amber. The wind in my hair! It was flying and brought me such joy to exercise her in a way that was good for her legs, as well as challenge myself to do something that I was completely uncomfortable doing. It took loop after loop to finally be able to tell her with her surety of my command. It was a great triumph at the end of a full year of riding Amber.

As I have now changed instructors again to a true cowgirl, I spend a lot of time with Amber grooming and connecting with her. I have learned to tack and untack her as well as lead her around the ring. I bathed her for the first time this last week as it was over 90 degrees. The salt came off of her body and I was grounded in physicality. She worked hard for me and I love her.

Oreo’s Adoption Story

Alright well, one of my humans wants the keyboard, so I guess I have to obey and hand it over… aaaanyway, here is my human on my adoption story…

In January of this year, I met Oreo, a chubby little paint with an adorably stubborn disposition. He’d been through a lot in the nine years of life before he met me, but strangely enough all that history is what first bound him to my heart.

I had spent months on Craigslist looking for the perfect therapy horse to begin our dream therapy farm… And I had been disappointed SO many times. Every time I would think I had found “the one”, someone would have their cash on hand faster or be available to pick it up sooner. So, I had almost given up and decided to call the whole idea off, but couldn’t restrain myself from checking the horse listings ooooone more time. I believe everything happens for a reason and I had to hope that God still had my horse out in the world somewhere. That’s when I found Oreo.

A bit of his story was posted on the ad, saying that he had come to Pasture Pals ER due to his owner not being able to afford feed for him. Because of this obvious neglect, this beautiful creature had come to the rescue underweight and out of shape. But by the time I had the privilege of meeting Oreo, he was healthy and ready to begin the next adventure in life!

I held onto his lead rope, full of hope and he answered with a soft and gentle gesture. Burrowing his nose in my hair he inhaled my scent and then exhaled approval. It was there on that frigid day in January that I realized hearts can never truly be full, because each amazing creature that enters our lives gives us a chance to grow our hearts a thousand-fold.

And why should love be limited? It keeps growing! In the past few months Oreo has become even more a part of our hearts and our family. He provides therapy to four of my adopted, special-needs siblings in preparation for his future job as a full time therapy horse!

I noticed recently that a new softness had entered Oreo’s chocolate brown irises. Even underfed and gaunt in his original rescue pictures, I thought him a beautiful horse. But in the soft afternoon glow of sunset, I felt my heart throb with emotion just as it had the first time I had met him. A few months ago, I had met a well-fed, clean, and healthy horse, but in that moment I met something more… a creature willing to forgive what I could not give and teach me to give more than I ever thought possible.

The most beautiful thing about Oreo’s story is that it is cycle of redemption and hope. He came to Pasture Pals ER needing love and nurture. He found his forever home with a family of children who had at one point in time been hurting for love and nurture as well. And in his job as a therapy horse, he will be giving back the love and nurture invested in him to another group of kids that greatly need it!

I imagine with great joy telling children that visit our therapy farm someday, “You see this amazingly powerful and beautiful animal? Well, he wasn’t always so glorious on the outside. He had people hurt him. He had people forget to feed him. He had people tell him that he did not matter. But you know what? He did matter… Just like you.”

Born to Be Wiiiiiild

“Yes well… I guess the fence won this time.”

Hey guys! Oreo here reporting on pasture happenings and our silly humans!

As an aside, Sundrop disagrees with the name of this post, but hey! I’m writing this so I get to choose! So there!

Alright anyway, The other day it was the coolest morning we’d had in weeks. So! Miss Mare two pastures over decided to go crazy with joy… Then the giant gelding one pasture over followed suit… and I’m sorry but it was just too hard to resist!!!!

So there we were, my four buddies and I, galloping across the pasture, RACING! Then all of a sudden, mid-race Sundrop decides to battle the fence…. aaaaaand he loses. *Chuckles*

We’re talking full on hide-meets-wood and bye-bye-fur action here. He swears it doesn’t hurt, but I’m pretty sure he’s just trying to keep up the tough, older sibling act.

One of the more experienced humans at the barn then tells our humans that he is fine and probably wouldn’t even scar, but the next day Sundrop decides it would be cool to get one more wound… Athletes *Rolls eyes*

So after babying the big drop of sun, the humans put us back in our stalls, thinking it would be safer for us to stay inside for a night. Boy golly do they have a LOT to learn about the way the herd works. So we decide to teach them!

The next night, Sundrop and I decide to put our retribution plan into action!!! When our humans come to see us in the pasture, we acknowledg their presence, but Sundrop canters circles around them refusing to be caught and I? Hehe. Well I let them put a halter on me and then laugh uproariously as the little humans tried to coax all 1,000 lbs of me away from my glorious grass.

Needless to say, we won. *winks*

Take away lesson for our humans: It’s OUR herd, and you’re still on trial-probation. So, do yourselves a favor and do not prevent us from playing with our other four-legged friends even if you think it might keep a bit of dirt out of our wounds!

Until next time our humans do something silly enough to comment on, I’m out. Cya!

-Oreo

Welcome to the Herd!

Hi there!

My name is Oreo! I’m a bit curious about what brought you here… but then again, I’m a horse. I’m always curious!

Well… whether your nose led you here for greener grass or you galloped here on purpose, you’re here now. You’ve crossed the fence into our world so it would be a good idea if we got some things straight.

Just so you know, Sundrop is the boss. Our humans figured that out pretty quickly… But Sundrop is a bit more timid around your type, so I’ll be handling the introductions and most of the lessons!

Now about our humans… They adopted US because they heard they could help us heal from our pasts. But secretly, we adopted THEM because we knew we could help them heal.

But now that we trust our humans and they trust us, we’re ready to invite you into the herd as well. There’s a lot you’re going to need to learn about us. There’s a lot we’re going to need to learn about you. But at the end of the day, you’re family now, so let’s bite this out! I mean… Bad Oreo. I’m not supposed to bite humans any more… We can hug it out?

Anyway, welcome to the herd.

P.S.

Don’t. Touch. My. Food.