MALVERN, Pa.--Three years ago, I joined Thorncroft Equestrian Center as an PATH Certified instructor.
I knew I found my new home with all the welcoming, kind and truly passionate people who work at the farm, volunteer and participate.
One of the first things I asked was can I become involved with the Veterans program and possibly create a new role also for our first responders.
I was involved in the thoughts and ideas for a similar program in New York, but with Covid, and then moving during Covid it never came to be.
I saw a huge need for equine-based horsemanship programs for our veterans and also our first responders.
With the exceptional leadership and support of staff, I was given the task to take over the Veterans Program and develop the First Responder Program from my predecessors.
And there is no better place to be since Thorncroft was established in 1969, and is still one of the premier therapeutic equestrian centers in the United States.
THORNCROFT specializes in therapeutic horseback riding and equine-assisted activities for both children and adults with mental, emotional and physical disabilities.
Thorncroft is here to serve; we provide an inclusive environment of love, and respect, allowing true healing to occur.
For over 15 years Thorncroft has had the privilege of welcoming members of our military community to participate in our Veterans Program and equine assisted activates.
The farm has welcomed over 100 veterans from all branches of the military.
We have now included our men and women on the front lines right here at home, our first responders.
The program is a 6-week course of basic horsemanship, including herd dynamics, equine behavior, natural horsemanship/liberty work, grooming and tacking and riding.
There is a limit of six participants to each class for a more personal and safe journey with our amazing horses.
These programs are fully funded so there is no cost to any veteran or first responder.
And after the six weeks, if the veteran or first responder wishes to continue to ride, again no cost to them, we have an on-going program.
We also run a four times a year family night, where our past participants can gather, have dinner together, build community and bring all their family members as well, and we teach a new horsemanship skill, to everyone in attendance.
At the heart of the program exists the powerful connection between humans and horses.
As veterans and first responders step into the arena at Thorncroft, they are welcomed by a sense of tranquility that sets the stage for their journey of personal growth, peace and well-being
. Here are a few testimonials from this year’s participants:
“I came to learn something about horses. I came away having learned as much or more about myself” Jim B. 2023 participant.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to come to the center each week, learn about the horses, and interact with the staff, volunteers and fellow veterans. Spending time with the horses and getting to walk around and enjoy the beautiful setting gave me peace and calm. What I took away from the program is a love for horses and the importance of empathy.” Julie H. 2023 participant.
I always tell the participants that I am here to just facilitate the experience, our amazing horses do the work.
Our horses truly help heal the hearts of our heroes.
The Farm now includes 70 acres of open space, a conference center, office space and two beautiful indoor arenas.