‘Healing Horses’ helps restore damaged humans

November 12, 2012 

— Special to the Fort Mill Times

Horse Show 4 Fun gave horse enthusiasts and riders of all ages an opportunity last month to showcase their skills during an event that featured more than 30 individual classes of competition and general horsemanship.

The event, hosted by Blue Wave Stable in Fort Mill, was created to raise funds for Healing Horses, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and sanctuary of horses that also provides a pathway of healing through horses.

The partnership between Blue Wave Stables and Healing Horses goes back about two years. It began when Erin Woodbury, owner and manager of Blue Wave, was introduced through a mutual friend to Katie Holme of Indian Land, founder and director of Healing Horses. Soon after the chance encounter, Woodbury began offering a portion of her stables to provide boarding and foster care for recently rescued horses.

In the last five years, Healing Horses has rescued more than 150 horses with the assistance of private donations. Last August, when nine horses needed help, the organization got the word out through its Facebook page. Donations came from all over, even from abroad.

“We actually had a soldier in Iraq…he saw our post shared on his mom’s Facebook page…he sent us $120. We have an amazing community of people that support us,” said Ed Holme, who was on hand to support his wife’s fundraiser.

While the nonprofit organization operates with a fluctuating staff of volunteers, rescue and rehabilitation of horses is only part of what it does. Often, a horse that’s rescued and restored back to health becomes a healer for many people.

The Healing Horses organization has brought people and horses together through healing sessions over the past five years. Holme said most people who seek equine therapy prefer to do it in private, making the secluded 11 acre Healing Horses facility in Van Wyck ideal.

Katie Holme pointed out a 16 year-old named Megan, who participated in the horse show. Through the help and services offered by Healing Horses, Megan was able to adopt Duke, one of the nine horses rescued in August. Holme began working with Megan nearly a year ago.

“When I met her, she was quite timid, and today she’s not because of the horse. What it’s (therapy) done, it’s brought her out into the public, given her confidence to communicate with people,” she said.

After conducting an initial evaluation, Holme works out a plan of therapy for a person then makes adjustments based on the way the care progresses.

“There’s a part of the brain that gets stimulated, it’s called the Hippocampus, which is deep in the brain. That gets stimulated by the movement of the horse, that’s where Hippotherapy comes from, so actually something physiological is happening. It’s not just that the person feels better; they’re actually getting healing pathways to the brain. The neural pathways start to get healing. So, people that have got disabilities like traumatic brain injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, eating disorders, all the anxiety disorders, respond really well to horses,” she said.

Horses have been a staple in Holme’s life since she was 3. Originally from Nottingham, England, Holme has traveled all over the world, working as a nurse Africa and Israel. About 18 years ago, her life changed dramatically in Florida when she was attacked by one of her patients while providing in-home care.

“Within the first few months that I was attacked, I got over the physical injuries, but the psychological and the post-traumatic stress I could not,” she said.

The attack left a lasting impression. Holme said that after the attack she couldn’t be around people, and instead found solace and personal healing through her interactions with horses.

“The horse can connect with that place that you probably don’t know exists. I had to find that place because I was so damaged … Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned through the dynamics of the herd, their interaction with each other, their interaction with me. I believe the Mongolians, the Mayan Indians, the Aborigines, have known for centuries that the horses are healers of people,” she said.

Holme said she feels she has an obligation to help others who may be suffering and hopes more people like Megan will continue to reap the benefits.

“For 16 years of her life she’s had to struggle trying to get herself understood verbally. Her mother, a year ago, was translating for her…now she’s talking – that’s what it’s about. All of the kids and all of the people that have come that are hurting and are sad and are going through bad times, I just don’t want them to suffer for that period of time that I did.”

For more, find Healing Horses on Facebook.

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