Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Heal With Horses, a recreational facility that connects humans to animals with a focus on therapeutic benefits, was the vision of Suzanne Latchford-Kulker.
Now with two locations, it provides an opportunity to improve mental and physical wellness through animals and nature.
“There was no business plan or blueprint,” Latchford-Kulker said. “It just sort of came from following my path and being open to what I saw that people really needed. It’s not a structured five-star equestrian centre, it’s understanding empathy, compassion, not only for people, but the animals that are here as well.”
Her passion for animals began at a young age and it never wavered.
“I was just a kid that was animal crazy,” she said. “I started riding when I was eight and convinced my parents to let me have a horse by the age of 12 in which I had to look after and be responsible for so I learned how to care for animals at a young age. When some kids were off doing other things, I was at the barn looking after my horse.”
That was part of Latchford-Kulker’s journey to opening Heal With Horses on Danforth Road in Hillier, located in Prince Edward County, when it became a not-for-profit in 2013. Five years later, it received charitable status.
Heal With Horses, as noted on its website, has created a safe, quiet, natural, rural setting for people of all ages and physical and mental capabilities to interact with the large herd of horses and a variety of small animals, including rabbits, cats, dogs, pigs, goats and more. The interactions include riding, grooming, leading through obstacles, playing games and walking through the fields and forest.
Facilities and programs are wheelchair accessible and specialty saddles are available for people who are physically disabled and that allow for two riders. Staff are trained to work with those with special needs.
“I believe because our programs are completely unique,” Latchford-Kulker said. “It’s a time for people to come and not feel pressured or structured. We have our certifications and our programs and methods that we use, but we don’t force anything on anybody. We really take a holistic approach to how we work with each individual and their interests and therapeutic goals.”
There are benefits to people with autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, depression and more, but there are positives for anyone who attends Heal With Horses.
“What happens is when you’re around nature – animals, horses, even the riding component – it increases oxytocin and serotonin, the feel-good hormones, which acts as an antidote to cortisol, which is the stress hormone,” Latchford-Kulker said. “You get a little dose of happy.”
A second location has now opened in Quinte West as well on Old Wooler Road in Wooler which is primarily for equine therapy.
According to the website, equine-assisted therapy can help individuals living with trauma learn to trust again and find confidence in their voice by communicating verbal and physical commands to the horse.
Equine therapy is so important at both locations as horses are amazing creatures.
“Basically horses, because they’re prey animals, it’s necessary for them to be aware of everything that’s going on at all times so they’re very good at sensing people’s emotions as well,” Latchford-Kulker said. “They don’t lie and they don’t judge and they’re in the present moment all the time. That’s basically why they’re so great as teachers because if we’re not paying attention, they will react and bring you back into focus.”
Latchford-Kulker is pleased to have Karlee Cochrane as the program coordinator and facilitator for the Wooler location.
Cochrane previously worked as an intervention therapist running intensive behavioural therapy sessions with children and youth aged four to 15. She is able to pull her knowledge and skills from both her horse and Child and Youth Care Practitioner experience to assist and run client sessions.
“We started that in November and luckily Carly who worked with us and also did her college placement here is very eager and determined and she got that up and running and that’s where she had always boarded her horse,” Latchford-Kulker said, noting it’s been a success so far.
No matter at which location, Heal With Horses notes the benefits of riding as the website states:
“While riding a horse, the rhythmic movement of the horse moves the rider’s body in a specific motion which then triggers the brain waves to align. This, in turn, sets the stage for spontaneous learning, concentration, balance, coordination and much more. The physical benefits are amazing as well! The rider’s body becomes naturally strengthened – especially the core – as riding requires the use of muscles we never thought we had!”
No riding experience is necessary as there is a team at Heal With Horses always willing to help, facilitating the session and walking the horse.
Appointments must be booked to attend Heal With Horses. There are some different experiences available including the Farm Life Family Experience that lasts for 90 minutes and you can meet the therapy animals.
It’s like going to a hobby farm with animals wandering about everywhere.
There’s chairs that sit low to the ground for a great way to interact with the small animals. Back scratchers are provided much to the delight of the animals. Pigs might flop beside you. Goats might get in your lap or jump on your back. Rest assured, “they’re very affectionate,” Latchford-Kulker said.
One-hour kids playdate sessions are also available, providing another opportunity for young ones to play with, feed and snuggle the herd.
Equine Soul Session is a new experience that has been added this year.
Tree Meditation – Begin your experience by walking through the pasture and into the forest to the cedar grove sanctuary. There you will ground yourself in the moment and experience a group meditative moment.
Meet the Herd – This activity is guided. We will walk into the pasture and hang out among our herd of 18 horses. You are free to walk around, stand together, observe, connect and interact with the horses.
Reflective Grooming – This is a prescribed method of grooming the horse with special grooming gloves worn on your hands. The intimacy of the experience for you and the horse is close, comforting and mindful.
Join Up Heart Connection – This activity is one-on-one (horse and human) in a round fenced enclosure with a trained facilitator as your guide. The objective is to make an authentic heart connection with the horse.
Journaling – The vital objective of the entire morning’s activities is to be “present and in the moment” so that you can witness your own self awareness. We will provide you with your own customized journal to jot down your observations and feelings during the morning’s activities.
A healthy lunch is also provided.
“It’s a four-hour experience primarily for adults with a component of meditation, mindfulness and connection with the horses,” Lachford-Kulker said.
Hours of operation at Heal With Horses Therapeutic Centre are Monday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Be sure to check out www.healwithhorses.ca
Join us for a great fundraiser with the Wellington Dukes on Saturday August 13th
997 Danforth Rd Wellington. SEE AD ON PG 30 JEFF PLEASE ADD THE ADVERTISEMENT PHOTO AND INFO WITH DUKES AND THE HORSE
1st Annual HEAL WITH HORSES Horseshoe Tournament.
SATURDAY AUGUST 13TH 9AM TO 5 PM
997 Danforth Rd Wellington
1ST PLACE PRIZE INCLUDES
2 season passes
for the Wellington
Dukes new season!
BBQ – Games –
Contests and more
Plus Try to “Dunk a Duke”
in the Dunk Tank!
Sponsored by PEC Party Rentals Free Hockey Cards for all and meet some of the New 2022-23 Wellington Dukes!
Follow us on facebook.com/HealWithHorsesPEC
Or Visit Healwithhorses.ca
To register or become a sponsor please contact
Collaborative Specialist HEAL with Horses