MINT HILL, NC – This June, Mending Strides Ranch launched a new program that invites Veterans and Teachers to “Hang with the Herd.”
Not therapy or even an equine learning program per say, “Hanging with the Herd” is simply a time for those who have served our country and some of those who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to relax, enjoy nature, and spend time with the horses. “It’s very freeform,” says Mending Strides Owner Maria Hogge. “We usually start with a mindfulness or meditation activity. If it’s been a particularly hard week and they just want to chill and observe the horses, that’s fine, too.”
Above all, “Hanging with the Herd” is an opportunity for people who have been busy and stressed out this past year to slow down and take a break. “Especially if they’re in a crowded neighborhood or apartment complex, it’s so valuable to be out in the open space,” says Hogge. “A lot of the mindfulness we practice has to do with just being present in the moment, and the horse is such a good example of that because they just take care of the need of the moment. Even if they get scared by something, they recover so quickly, and it’s past, it’s done.”
Hogge was inspired to offer “Hanging with the Herd” by her board president, who is the vice principal of a local charter school. “Last year, I saw her go through so much stress and depression,” says Hogge. “There was such a high demand put on educators with all the different ways that they had to do things. What we keep hearing from our clients is that it’s so calm here, and so we just want to offer that. It’s just a small easy thing that we can do.”
“Hanging with the Herd”” is currently open to Veterans on Tuesday evenings (5:30 pm to 7:00 pm) and teachers on Thursday evenings. Five teachers attended the first educator session on June 24. When I spoke to Hogge, she hadn’t yet had any Veterans take her up on Hanging with the Herd,” but she’s focused on continuing to get the word out and is open to expanding the program to other groups like health care workers and nonprofit workers.
If you’re a teacher or veteran interested in “Hanging with the Herd,” contact Maria Hogge by phone at (803) 242-9426 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hanging with the Herd is free, but registration is required. No horse experience is required; participants should be aware that all sessions are non-riding.
Also happening at Mending Strides this summer is “Growing Strides,” an equine-facilitated learning program for anyone from age 10 to adults. The eight-week program teaches basic horse care and handling while also demonstrating how this knowledge applies to everyday life. “The main thing behind all of it is building confidence and self esteem,” says Hogge. “They have to do a barn chore, a different one every time they come. They get exposed to a lot of different ways to handle the horses on the ground, but we’re really helping them to feel a sense of accomplishment for having success with a big animal like that. Social skills and self confidence are the big thing behind all of it.”
Hogge finds “Growing Strides” particularly beneficial for many girls and young women who lack self-confidence. “The thing we see, especially with girls, is that they haven’t found their voice, or they don’t realize that they have the right to express it,” she says. “This is really good for that boundary setting and assertiveness.”
“Growing Strides” is an ongoing program open to anyone age 10 or older for $35 per session (or $280 for the full eight-week course). A limited number of scholarships are available for individuals who can demonstrate financial need.
Coming soon at Mending Strides is “Different Strides” Summer Camp. There are still spots open for the week-long equine-assisted learning camp for kids ages 9-14. Focused on valuing what makes each child unique and different, the non-riding camp will involve horse activities as well as art projects, games and nature activities. The cost for the camp is $250; scholarships are available for foster children.
From ranch hands to trained mental health providers, Mending Strides is always looking for help! Therapists interested in working with Mending Strides need not have horse experience. Learn more about how you can join Mending Strides and all of Mending Strides’ programs on their website: https://www.mendingstridesranch.com.