A drive through the rural areas that make up most of the Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative service area offers a glimpse at the deep connection between people and their animals. Across all age groups, socioeconomic measures and demographics, from small lots to large estates and from lean-to stalls to horse barns fit for royalty, there is a common bond with man and beast.
Using that connection for therapeutic purposes has shown great promise, ranging from animal visits at hospitals to hippotherapy, which involves riding horses for physical therapy.
Three organizations dedicated to animal-related outreach recently received grants from the TVEC Charitable Foundation: Casey’s Place and Jake E’s Riding Roundup near Kaufman, and The King’s Rein in LaRue south of Athens.
The King’s Rein and Jake E’s Riding Roundup focus primarily on Equine Assisted Therapy. Combining the physical aspects of riding with the emotional and psychological aspects of interacting with the horses seems to be a great combination.
“It is really for anyone, children and adults, who can benefit with connection to the horses,” said Jake E’s founder Jana Ewing. “We have people with physical disabilities, but also there is so much we can do with the mental health realm. Veterans with PTSD, depression, anxiety, or people working with anxiety and fear, we can work on that.”
A similar dynamic is in play at Casey’s Place, but the emphasis is on helping children and adolescents in the care of area shelter organizations.
“There is a natural bond between the kids and the animals that God created long before we came along,” said Casey’s Place founder Robin Cruz. “These kids are faced with situations where they have suffered abandonment, neglect or abuse from the people who were supposed to love them the most.”
The benefits are easy to see, but the challenges are not easy to face, even for volunteers that keep everything running.
“It takes a lot of courage to get on a horse, so you see them gain confidence and self-esteem as they get up there and see what they can do,” Cruz said. “As we work through the arena it is amazing how much they feel they can open up and start talking, there is real freedom in it. Sometimes it is maybe stories we don’t want to hear, but they are reminders of why we do this. When they aren’t holding all of that inside, we are winning the battle.
Other organizations receiving grants recently included:
Monday Primary Kids Clothes Closet, $3,000: MPSKCC provides clothing and shoes for children in need in Kaufman.
Living Alternatives of Palestine, $1,500: Living Alternatives of Palestine offers parenting support and educational classes, and counseling services for mothers with planned or unplanned pregnancies.
Labor of Love, $5,000: Labor of Love provides home repairs and modifications for handicapped, elderly or otherwise needy individuals.
Salvation Army Center Kaufman, $5,000: The Salvation Army provides a wide range of assistance from food and clothing to utility payment assistance and lodging.
Men Unleashed, $3,000: Men Unleashed is an organization of men committed to bettering the community through service projects and personal growth.
The Jesus Connection, $3,000: The Jesus Connection in Eustace assists people in need in a number of ways including food assistance, fans, and a school backpack food program.