For more than 10 years, Grace Therapeutic Horse Farm has been helping people recover from trauma, abuse and other physical and psychological damage.
The farm, operated by Robin Nelson and Kristine Eikenbary, recently received a grant for $10,000 to establish a new program for pre-teen girls who have experienced child abuse.
“It felt amazing,” Nelson said about receiving the grant this year. “We can actually afford to pay a therapist now.”
Nelson said the farm struggles with finding therapists who will work for free due to the laws surrounding malpractice.
“A lot of doctors aren’t willing to work for free because they fear being sued,” she said.
The grant was provided by Royal Neighbors of America and its Nation of Neighbors program. Headquartered in Rock Island, Illinois, Royal Neighbors of America is a unique provider of life insurance with the mission “to protect women financially and empower them to improve their lives.”
Nation of Neighbors a philanthropic program started by Royal Neighbors of America. It provides financial assistance to individuals who have a plan to start or expand a business, organization, program or nonprofit that helps women in their community. This year, Nation of Neighbors offered 10 grants, with Grace Therapeutic Horse Farm on the list.
Nelson said she and Eikenbary plan to start the new program in March of 2020 with the plans to run it for six months.
“It’s going to be more than horseback riding,” Nelson said. “We will have classes, dinners and games.”
Eikenbary said the classes will include subjects such as confidence building to help the girls find their voice and help them toward recovery.
“We help everybody we can and we have different ways to do it,” Eikenbarys said.
Nelson has been a nurse at Legacy Emanuel for over 35 years and is a survivor of trauma herself. She said horses do more in the healing process than people would expect.
“I looked at myself,” Nelson said about recovering from her own abuse. “Why did I turn out so strong?”
She attributed her strong healing process to horses and their ability to love and instill self-esteem.
“Horse therapy is a powerful way to help instill self-esteem, learn self-control and make deep emotional connections with these large and amazingly gentle animals,” she said in a news release. “Girls can learn they have the power to survive.”
Nelson said the farm chose to use horses because the animals were important in her own recovery.
“Horses can sense emotion and heartbeats,” Nelson explained. “They are very sensitive.”
While at the horse farm, Nelson told a story about a woman in an abusive marriage who found healing at the horse farm.
“She found her voice afterwards,” Nelson said, noting that she was very timid and quiet due to the abuse.
However, after learning how to speak loudly at a horse to get it to do what she wanted, she found recovery.
“The brain is like a muscle and you have to work it in recovery,” Nelson said.
Eikenbary and Nelson said they are looking forward to the program and the ability to have a therapist on staff to help healing kids, and they love the feeling of helping people in any way they can. At the farm, Nelson and Eikenbary do more than help girls in the pre-teens with post traumatic stress disorder.
“We’ve worked with Ridgefield Recovery to help addicts recover,” Nelson and Eikenbary, noting that over the past 10 years Grace Therapeutic Horse Farm has also worked with austistic children, sexual abuse survivors, Alzheimer’s patients and more.
In 2014, Grace Therapeutic Horse Program worked with Daybreak Youth Services in Brush Prairie to provide a place for teen addicts in the Clark County area to find healing through equines. Nelson said the teens loved working with the horses on the ranch as a part of their recovery process.
Along with healing programs, Grace Therapeutic Horse Farm offers chances for the community to ride horses.
“We have an open ride on the first Saturday of every month that is open to the community,” they said in the press release.
The open rides are available March through October. Eikenbary and Nelson explained how the open ride “brings people from every walk of life to the farm.”
“We’ve had extremely poor people and people with extravagant wealth come out here and have their kids ride horses to try it out,” they said in the press release.
The farm has all the equipment needed to ride a horse, from saddles to boots to outfits.
Nelson and Eikenbary said they like to use older and “kill-house” horses for the farm as they are more timid and they like saving horses from slaughter houses.
“If we didn’t bring them to the farm they would be shipped up to Canada and slaughtered,” Nelson said.
The farm is something of a retirement home for horses.
According to Nelson, the farm is supported by herself and Eikenbary, volunteers and donations.
“You have to have a heart to do this kind of thing,” Nelson said. “I’ve worked two jobs to support it the whole time.”
When asked why she and Eikenbary do it, they said they feel it’s their job to get out there and support others.
“We are faith-based here but it’s not in your face,” Eikenbary said.
Volunteer Liz Gulker echoed Eikenbary and Nelson’s thoughts on helping how they can.
“We are like a family here,” she said. “You really get the feeling that you’re helping somebody and it’s amazing.”