The need for therapy is hard to admit, especially for kids who suffer from or struggle with mental illness. These kids need extra care and attention that a normal child would not require. There are specialized programs aimed to support these specific needs through social interactions, responsibilities, and experiences. Can you imagine a program that does all this and includes horses?
A new program called Sara’s Haven is here to do just that. Sarajevo Stables just launched their new program, Sara’s Haven, in the Dayton area to help struggling kids. Sara’s Haven specifically targets children who are experiencing depression, anxiety, and trauma. They aim to teach them what it means to feel valued and loved. They also teach life skills, including how to live a happy and healthy life.
“Learning how to value others and value yourself is the biggest thing,” said licensed mental health practitioner Rachael Hutchison. “So many kids grow up thinking they are unworthy and they’re not unworthy. They just might not fit the mold that their parents wanted them to fit.”
Hutchison said the program has changed her whole life. Before Sarajevo, Hutchison’s daughter, Hannah, was experiencing extreme anger issues that only improved when she spent time volunteering on the farm. As Hutchison and her family became more involved with the horses and students, owner Bobbie Henderson saw potential in Hutchison’s knowledge for the new branch of Sarajevo.
“Bobbie approached me about a year ago telling me her plans and it started out as a residential treatment program and has evolved to what it is now,” said Hutchison.
Hutchison wants this to be a place where children will learn life on the farm. Some of the skills she plans to teach include landscaping, woodworking, and animal health. More importantly teaching them what it means to have responsibilities and even helping them discover their future paths.
“When no one else will listen to them, it gives them a place where they can talk,” Hutchison said.
She has noticed that one of the biggest problems with children who are struggling is that they are not heard. If they are heard, then they are validated and are able to realize their feelings are not foolish. In addition to these struggles, Hutchison also plans to help children with grief recovery.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned in grief recovery is that grievers need to be heard. They don’t need to be fixed, they just need to be heard,” said Hutchison.
As someone who has worked with many children who have lost a parent and are experiencing behavioral issues she has learned to listen to them. Hutchison has done hours of research on programs and theories. Through this research, she has learned that when all a person knows is trauma, their only response is a trauma reaction.
Although the program is currently aiming to help children with depression, trauma, and grief, Hutchison is also hoping that the future of Sara’s Haven will include hippotherapy. This method helps make connections to the brain by using the horse’s movement.
“They ride upside down, backwards on the horse, or sometimes stand on the horse,” she explains.
Research has proven that hippotherapy helps with conditions like cerebral palsy and neurological disorders. Hutchison hopes to one day become certified in hippothearpy.
Although Sara’s Haven launched at the beginning of June, Hutchison and Henderson have already seen improvements in various students.
“I was just working with somebody and she told me her riding is so much better now that she’s not focused on all her past so she can focus on the here and now,” Hutchison said.
She explained that although great rides are amazing, when a student has a bad ride, they learn so much more. Having a bad ride on a horse is not all about what the student does wrong but about what they learn and what they can improve on.
Hutchison and Henderson are striving to provide a loving, healthy home where these children are heard and valued. So, how can you help support this program? As more and more children are being admitted into the program, Hutchison expects to need more of everything.
“Definitely need more staff. I already see we need another indoor arena, not just for lessons,” said Hutchison. “I need time here and I need space.”
With this in mind, Hutchison and Henderson are constantly looking for others who are interested in becoming involved in the Sara’s Haven program. Not only can volunteering your time help, but donations for the facilities and the horses are appreciated as well.
Want to help?
What: Miracle Horses Healing Hearts at Sarajevo Stables
Where: 2711 W. Pekin Road Springboro OH
Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
How to get involved: Contact Bobbie Henderson at (937) 555-5555
More info: Sarajevo Website