BISMARCK, N.D. — TR 4 Heart and Soul opened it’s doors, southeast of Bismarck seven years ago. The organization in the beginning focused on people who had physical disabilities.
“We had four participants in the program,” said Katie Oakland, executive director of TR 4 Heart and Soul. “They were all pediatrics that were on the autism spectrum. We had two who had cerebella palsy and we just had two horses at the time.”
After seeing the impact the program had on all the children, Katie Oakland, was determined to make
the experience available for everyone.
Fastforward to today, the organization has 50 participants a week.
But some may wonder why use horses in therapeutic services
Horses are not that much different from humans.
“Horses are really similar mechanically and emotionally,” said Oakland.
Horses are prey animals by nature and their instinct is fight-flight-or freeze. Which experts say is the same thing humans experience when confronted with a stressful situation.
“Kids who have had any trouble in school even at their recess or the
lunch room those are kinda of the three places we want to go fight/flight/or freeze,” said Oakland.
Oakland says it resonates with kids when they realize how similar they are with these horses.
“When they work with animal that is maybe 1200 pounds how this animal is feeling the same thing,” said Oakland.
This summer.. Oakland even expanded her program by partnering with the North Dakota State Council and Developmental Disabilities.
“We realized there were more to horses than offering it as an adaptive service. We wanted to offer some mentorships and some inclusive environment for the city and the region of Bismarck-Mandan.”
The organization even has a lifestyle program that focuses on holistic health and food sovenity. Students interested in physical therapy also get opportunities to spend time with the horses and learn different ways animals can help people.
“I love how welcomed you feel when you come out to the farm not just by Katie and her staff but by the horses. They just make you feel at peace,” said Jordan Smith, a student at the University of Mary.
Oakland says the horses have become a perfect fit to balance the fun of the activity, and are the key part of the therapeutic session.