In the Arena with Lucky Orphan’s Herd
A Look Inside an Equine-Assisted Program at a Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue
At Lucky Orphan Horse Rescue, healing begins with the herd. The herd consists of the equine residents of Lucky Orphans, who gather in the 11,000-square foot arena at the Hudson Valley location. Groups that arrive include corporate groups, school kids, and members of farm tours and therapy programs. The day we caught up with Deanna Mancuso, founder of LOHR, the local County Animal Response Team had come to build team and leaderships skills.
The horses break down all of your walls,” said Deanna Mancuso, founder of Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue. “They force us to be honest, they force us to be in the moment”.
The Equine Assisted Corporate Development Programs are tailored to focus on whatever a team wants to work on. That might be communication, team effectiveness and anything else that would improve your business, interactions or social skills. The County Animal Response Team was already used to working with large animals. Even with that experience, Mancuso said their reaction in the arena was striking. Working with horses means working with an animal that is very much like us physically but with very different motivations, and Mancuso said that can be eye-opening for clients. “Horses as prey animals are very selfless. As humans we are natural predators, we are very selfish, goal oriented. Bigger house, car, paycheck. Horses think about the better of the herd. Where is there food that will feed everybody?” Horses, she points out, lead from behind, pushing the herd into excellence, an impulse many of us would find to be the opposite of the behaviors we encounter in our daily lives.
Groups that arrive in the arena always begin by observing the herd. From there, sessions evolve into working with one or more of the horses. Each session is experiential; Mancuso says she never knows exactly what’s going to happen, because she doesn’t know what a client will bring to the interaction. “The horses break down all of your walls,” she says of the experience. “They get to who you are introspectively – they get to who you are – your thoughts your beliefs, horses force us to be honest, they force us to be in the moment.”
The experiences can be powerful in equine-assisted therapy, and not less so in corporate development groups. This day, the team was asked to pick out the horse they didn’t want to work with because of one reason or another – too submissive, too aggressive, too big, too fast. As the session went on, members ended up gravitating toward their non-picks to their own amazement.
Just the first-hand interaction with a living thing can make for a profound experience for both children and adults. “Everything is on our phones today. It’s not face to face,” says Mancuso. “We’re losing that ability to make first impressions. Even shaking a hand – was it a firm handshake or a soft handshake? Did they look me in the eye? What was your fist impression? Horses bring it back to that – to having a relationship, conversation, an introduction.” Learn more about Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue programs.