More youth will experience therapeutic benefits of horses through Autumn Trails Stable’s new program

Youth who are in foster care or who have been adopted often have complex needs. Horses can help.

A new program at Autumn Trails Stable, located in German Township, will serve these youth by pairing them with both a horse and an adult mentor during weekly one-hour sessions, says Angela Stan, the founder and executive director of the stable. She is a certified therapeutic riding instructor.

“A lot of people don’t know how therapeutic horses are,” Stan says.

The new program, called Stable Moments, will begin in April. The stable completed a certification course in order to participate in the program, and is offered at locations throughout the country.

Stable Moments is for youth ages 5 to 18 who have been adopted or are in foster care, including those who have been placed under kinship care, the full-time nurturing and protection of children by relatives
Horses are intuitive animals. They see and accept humans long before we see and accept ourselves.The program is unmounted, meaning that participants won’t be riding the horses. Instead, each session will include a horse activity, such as grooming, leading, or bathing the horse, Stan says.

The program is designed to help children who have experienced trauma caused by abuse, neglect or abandonment learn life skills. The program aims to teach youth not only that they matter, but also that they have ownership over their lives, Stan says. It positions them to successfully transition both into adulthood and into members of the community.

The mentorship aspect of the program is one of the keys to its success.

“That relationship has been proven to be the number one thing that kids with complex trauma need,” she says.

In many cases, it is easier for the youth to have a relationship with an animal rather than an adult, Stan says. The program is typically 10 months because it often takes three or four months for the mentor to break through the barrier to connect with them.

“The horses are kind of the buffer for that,” she says.

Autumn Trails is continuing to look for additional volunteer mentors for the program. Mentors must be adults who can commit to one hour each week, although there will be substitute mentors to account for sickness, vacation, and other absences, Stan says. 

Mentors must complete a volunteer application, background check, online training and onsite training.

A new program at Autumn Trails Stable will serve youth who are in foster care or who have been adopted and who may have complex needs by pairing them with both a horse and an adult mentor during weekly one-hour sessions.No prior experience with horses is needed, Stan says. The stable’s onsite trainings in March will go over how to handle horses, and a certified staff member will be there during all programs.

Mentors also must be good listeners, she says.

“It’s about listening to these kids – which typically hasn’t happened for them – and making them feel important,” Stan says.

Stan hopes to enroll at least 10 to 15 youth during this first year of Stable Moments, with a goal of eventually reaching 50 kids annually. More than 24,000 kids are in foster care in Ohio, according to the stable, and Stan says more than 100 kids are in foster care in Clark County alone.

Autumn Trails Stable, which was established in 2016 and is located on 8 acres on Folk Ream Road, is a nonprofit equine-assisted service center that serves both children and adults with developmental disabilities and others who are experiencing challenges in life. 

Last year Autumn Trails provided 560 equine-assisted services, mostly to Clark County residents but also to those from Champaign, Greene, Montgomery, and Miami counties, Stan says.

The Stable Moments program cost is $200 per month, but funding is available through a Medicaid program and other options, she says. A sliding fee scale also is available, and no participant will be turned away.

Program fees, however, don’t cover all costs – they make up only about a quarter of the stable’s budget, Stan says. Donations are welcome.

Stable Moments will run this year from April 2 to Dec. 21, and participants can enroll at any time. There are no meetings in January and February, and the program is expected to restart each year in March.

To sign up for the Stable Moments program, email program director Angel Fogle here. 

Find out more about how mentorship matters.

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Read more articles by Diane Erwin.

Diane Erwin is a freelance writer and former reporter for the Springfield News-Sun. A graduate of Ohio State University, her articles have appeared in a number of publications in Springfield and Dayton. In addition to her journalism background, she has worked in marketing and written copy for businesses throughout the country. In her spare time, she likes to read, dream about Schuler’s donuts, and travel near and far with her husband and two children.