THREE OAKS — Horses really can help.
The Spring Creek Horses Help Foundation was established about a year ago to help under-privileged and under-resourced children and adults learn team-building skills and positive life lessons by interacting with horses.
"We do camps, we do sessions, we do targeted lessons for those with phyisical or emotional challenges (such as anxiety, PTSD, autism, ADHD, depression, school or family struggles)," said Alison Grosse, owner of Spring Creek Farm.
She said the first Spring Creek Horses Help Foundation session took place in February before the coronavirus pandemic hit with four children participating.
"They did really well, we had a lot of positive feedback," Grosse added.
Participants learned about caring for a horse, grooming and tacking the animals, cleaning their stall, and riding though courses such as: Barn and Horse Care; Tacking and Riding; and Understanding the Horse.
One of those taking part was 11-year-old Wyatt Moon, who said he especially liked riding "Abby" because she trots slow.
Vonnie Hein (Wyatt's grandmother and a Spring Creek Horses Help Foundation Board member) said she brought Wyatt out to ride, and he was invited to join the scholarship program.
"It was amazing, it changed his life," she said. "He is autistic, and he doesn't always talk a lot, or easily. He came out here and just sort of rambled on to everybody."
"The horses calm him. And they calm me too … I come out here on a bad day and put my head on a horse and I feel better."
Hein said the people who work with the kids are fantastic.
"There's such a camaraderie in the barn with the people, and the horses are amazing … every one of them is so gentle."
"It really has been a beautiful experience for us."
For 8-year-old Mia Cochran, the February sessions were just the beginning.
Her mom, Nicole Pender, said they started coming to Spring Creek through the Foundation program last winter and have continued doing lessons.
"We'll probably be here forever."
Horses Help Foundation Board member Sally Bogert said Spring Creek Equestrian Center offers camps, riding lessons, boarding (noting that there are some national champions in the barn),
"I lease a horse here. Some kids show in the summer and take lessons all winter long (the facility includes an indoor riding area).
The Spring Creek Equestrian Center has 14 lesson horses which the foundation rents. There are a total of 33 horses and a pony named "S'More" at the farm (located between Three Oaks and Galien), Some are privately owned and boarded at the Spring Creek stables. Lesson horses also sometimes used by riders to compete in horse shows.
Addison Hoagland and "Vinnie" participated in a recent riding lesson at Spring Creek. She said they compete in places like La Porte and Valparaiso, adding, "He's a really good horse."
Also hanging around the barn are a hen named "Chickee," five cats, and dogs including "Hula," "Odie" and "Max."
Bogert said she started volunteering at Spring Creek about two years ago, noting that she, Grosse and another volunteer decided to make the foundation a reality, She said a Spring Creek riders' mom works for a legal firm that helps establish non-profit foundations.
"Now we're trying to recruit more students and raise more money to start up the classes again."
For more information log on to springcreekhorseshelp.org or call Grosse at (269) 756-3894.
The Spring Creek Horses Help Foundation teamed up with Williams Orchard in Rolling Prairie, Ind., for a Sunday, Oct. 11, U-Pick Give-Back Day which featured the chance to have photos taken with Spring Creek Farm pony, "S’more."
Willams Orchard also has goats, donkeys, chickens and ducks, acres of apple trees, cider, and apple doughnuts.
The Foundation will receive a percentage of apple sales for those who came to support its scholarships that provide local, low-income and special needs children and adults an equine-based educational program on horse behavior, barn and horse care, and riding skills.
Spring Creek Horses Help Foundation Board members are: Grosse, Bogert, Hein, Darla Glowacki, Kayla McDonald Raye and Daina Lyons.