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A helping hoof: Equine therapy program gives military kids a way to work through their emotions

Little Blessings has seen so much success with its equine therapy program for veterans that now they're helping out the next generation, too.

TEMPERANCE, Mich. — Little Blessings equine therapy program connecting veterans to horses has already been a tremendous success. But now, the work at Little Blessings is helping another generation see the benefits of equine therapy as well.

"Some horses just totally melt down and okay, you need a calm environment. And other horses, they get anxious too. So these kids have learned they have to calm themselves down, whether it's anxious, or anger or whatever, they have to calm themselves down so the horses will calm down," equine specialist Kyle Schaller said.

"I was actually pretty mad and stuff because my dad never spent time with us," Lillian Gawecki said. 

Gawecki started coming to Duke Petting Farm when her dad got involved in Little Blessing's veteran outreach program.

He did it to work through his PTSD and depression. 

Now, it's her turn to see if the program can help her work through her emotions.

"It takes me a minute to get calm because usually I don't ride horses, but when I do it just makes me feel calm," Gawecki said.

Schaller has seen how the past 18 weeks have changed Lilly and the 11 other military children who graduated from the first full kids program.

"She's more open to ideas and she collaborates with others, and she's a little bit more carefree and she goes out of her bubble. When she first started this, she wouldn't even get on a horse. Now she's riding with no fear," Schaller said.

Lilly, like many others, now considers being on the farm with the horses her happy place and plans to stick around past her classes in a work-to-ride program.

In fact, program organizers say it was so successful, Little Blessings is already planning its next class. The goal is to start up again on June 7. For more information, you can click here.