It’s already mid-May, and spring is FLYING by as our program season ramps up. We’ve been really happy to welcome our COWPOKES ISD kids back for the fiest time since 2019. Their program was canceled due to covid in 2020 and 2021, so we have a lot of new faces out this year, among students, peers, AND volunteers. So far, despite the cold start (we had to push our start date back a week to avoid freezing everyone) all is going very well. Yesterday we were thrilled to welcome out a class of ISD preschoolers on their very first field trip, anywhere! As you can see by the smiles, it was a rousing success - our small visitors played with bubbles, met ponies, horses, Jake the dog, and a few slightly dubious (but good-natured) cats, and generally had a very good time. Our volunteers, young and older, are a lot of what makes this possible. We are blessed with a great group of helpers of all ages, and those numbers - and all those sharp eyes - are what enable us to keep everyone safe while they enjoy themselves.
We continue to search for the RIGHT therapy horse. This year we have a couple of new entrants to our Hoofprints program, and we still need to replace our Shadow, who passed away this winter. If you know of a calm, gentle, healthy horse under 16 years, 15.3 hands or less, preferably within 100 miles of us, who needs a quiet ”retirement job,” please get in touch, either via an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or a phone call to Mary Van Dorp, our Executive Director, at 231-233-1552. The selected horse will have a friendly herd, lovely pastures, vet and farrier care, and a home for life. Extra points for a slender build, as some of our clients have difficulty gripping round-barreled breeds, but if you’re not sure, get in touch. We promise, no weight- or age-shaming!
It’s been a relatively quiet and snowy winter here in northwest lower Michigan, and most of us - horses, cats, and humans - are awaiting spring. (Farm Security Agent Jake, a real fan of winter, enjoys his own take on “snowplowing” every time we get a fresh fall. He’s only sad that his humans don’t embrace snow-rolling with the same enthusiasm he shows.) There has been some snowshoeing, some basic groundwork, and some grooming as we wait, but in general winter is a time for planning - garden, training, and program - and catching up with everything set aside during the busy summer. The horses wait, welcoming their occasional human visitors as they dream of spring grass and summer fields.
A Sad Goodbye
As many of you know, we lost our lovely Arab, Shadows of Mahogany, in mid-January. He was 26 - a significant age for a horse - and developed probable pneumonia with incipient kidney failure after an esophageal choking incident. Aging horses sometimes experience significant decay in their back molars, necessitating removal of those teeth if infection and pain result. This was the case with Shadow some years back. This is one of the harder aspects of managing an older herd, as many equine therapy-related facilities do. Our older horses have wisdom and calmness, but like any aging population, they are more prone to health issues. We are proud, though, that Shadow lived such a long and interesting life. He was very much loved, and he is greatly missed. (For those who wish to donate in his memory, we will soon be offering a keepsake made from the hair of his mane. Check back here for more information, coming soon.)
Fall is gradually leaving us, as the days become increasingly blustery and our remaining kittens (available for adoption!) chase leaves on the deck. The horses are growing more and more furry, building up their winter coats and enjoying as much grass as possible before the winter freeze. We’re collecting the garden’s final harvests - kale, pumpkins, the last tomatoes - and putting it to bed. While we appreciate the rest and planning time that winter brings, we always feel a little sad about summer’s end. But we have plenty of organizational work to keep us busy through the winter, and we’re excited about our recent changes, as well as those to come.
As you may know if you visit our website frequently, Manistee Habitat For Humanity approached us not long ago regarding a replacement mounting block and wheelchair ramp for our arena. The ramp is now a reality! HFH volunteers first helped us raise the cost of materials, and then worked on site for several days, during which time staff from the Manistee News Advocate visited for photos and a report. (See story link here.) The ramp is now complete, and has been tested by horses and volunteers alike.
We just recently completed our Safenet season, which brought twenty-three children out to the farm over a six-week period. Our Safenet kids are divided into two groups: GALLOP for girls, who came out each Monday during our program period, and BRONCO for boys, who came out every Wednesday. They rode horses, played with kittens (this summer we have fostered cat-moms from Homeward Bound and Repo’s Rescue) groomed and walked ponies, hit golf balls, and whizzed around on golf cart rides. An accompanying grandparent recently wrote to us “What a wonderful program you provide for these kids. It’s a joy to see the excitement on their faces as they’re learning about the horses!” One of the Safenet workers also told us that meeting our horses helped overcome her fear of them. ("Now I'm comfortable around those giant, beautiful beasts, thanks to all of you!")