Freedom Farm program offers Hope with Horses

Watertown-Mayer High School student Reid Baumann-Fern assists  a Watertown-Mayer Elementary School student as he rides Echo, while volunteer Sue Claussen leads.

Watertown-Mayer High School student Reid Baumann-Fern assists a Watertown-Mayer Elementary School student as he rides Echo, while volunteer Sue Claussen leads.

Freedom Farm Director Susie Bjorklund struggles to find a word that best defines the type of high school students that have been taking part in a new intervention therapy program at the therapeutic riding center she operates in Waverly.

For lack of a better term, “disengaged” is the one being used by Bjorklund’s organization and the Watertown-Mayer School District, which partnered to launch a program called “Hope With Horses” this spring. All the students were selected for the program because they were struggling in or failing school, but the reasons for those struggles vary widely.

For some, it may be an identified learning disability. For others, it might be emotional challenges or disorders, such as anxiety or depression. And for others still, it might simply have been some bad life decisions that led them into trouble.

Whatever the cause, Bjorklund believed her horses could be a cure. She believed that by having the students volunteer at the riding center one day per week and aid younger special education students as they learned basic riding techniques, the high school students would be instilled with a newfound sense of confidence, leadership and reliability. Bjorklund said a deficiecy in some of those traits were likely at the root of whatever struggles they might be having.

“Accomplishing a task involving a horse creates confidence and provides metaphors when dealing with other challenging situations in life,” Bjorklund said. “The horse can influence people in powerful ways.”

To read the rest of this story, pick up a copy of this week’s June 20 Carver County News.

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