HN Blogger Contest Round Two: Horses and Hope
“When Terri’s husband passed away in December of 2021, her determination to continue moving forward with their dream didn’t waver and she began operating full-time in June 2022.” Hope Adventures is an animal-assisted mental health practice, which uses traditional therapy techniques and allows clients to interact with the animals in a variety of ways.
Our finalists in the 2022 HN Blogger Contest are back with their Round Two submissions! For this round, we asked each of our finalists to highlight a business, entity, or organization doing good in the horse world. We’ll be sharing their responses this week — and we want to know what you think as a reader! Share your thoughts in the Facbeook comments section.
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” ~ Winston Churchill
This is something that has been clear to Terri Sigler from the time she was a young child. Terri grew up on a dairy farm but also had horses and began riding when she was eight, and then was showing by the time she was 12-years old. Being active in 4-H meant that Terri was also active in volunteer projects that included events at nursing homes and local schools — something that helped nurture a passion for helping people, but also being able to continue her work with animals. She decided to pursue this passion in college by getting her Masters in Social Work and beginning a career as a mobile therapist while moving into a school-based setting.
As it usually does with us horse people, when we are put in a setting that isn’t a barn on a foggy, 60-degree morning, with the animals quietly munching their breakfast, Terri felt something was missing. And as it always does, for horse people and non-horse people alike, sometimes it takes something that shakes us to our core to steer us towards our true calling.
Four years ago, Terri’s husband was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer. The words “barn time” began to take on a whole new meaning for her — something her husband always seemed to understand. It was at that time that she and her husband realized just how critical of a role the horses could be, in not only their lives, but the lives of their three young children and others who were struggling as well.
“That was the start of brainstorming for Hope Adventures, and figuring out how I can share my animals with others who are struggling and dealing with life situations. The name Hope Adventures is a combination of both my husband’s and my ideas,” Terri says. “As a therapist, it is important to provide clients with hope in order to help heal and have a positive outlook for the future. Farm life is always an adventure because no two days are the same and you never know what might happen.”
When Terri’s husband passed away in December of 2021, her determination to continue moving forward with their dream didn’t waver and she began operating full-time in June 2022. Hope Adventures is located on about 30 acres in York, PA and, in addition to four horses, has a donkey, bunny, dog and, in Terri’s words, “a bunch of goats.”
She describes Hope Adventures as an “animal assisted mental health practice,” which allows her not only to use traditional therapy techniques but to also allow her clients to interact with the animals in a variety of ways. Whether it is brushing, bathing, even painting the horses, or petting the goats and the bunny, her clients are able to do what all of us horse people probably need to spend more time doing — just interacting with the animals and allowing them to transport us away from the whirlwind that is our everyday life in a way that only they can.
“Horses are able to communicate with us when no one else can. They seem to understand the unspoken and can see people for who they are.” Terri says that one of her more memorable sessions was with a 30-year old female who was struggling with anxiety and anger. While simply petting one of the horses and talking with Terri, she began to cry and apologized for doing so. “She was able to communicate with the horse on a different level. As she was talking, the horse softened his head and curled his head around her body, almost as if he was telling her that it was okay to talk about her feelings. Once she stopped fighting her tears and gave herself permission to cry, she was able to talk through her feelings and come up with an action plan,” Terri explained.
While she lets the clients pick which horses to work with, she feels the horses really pick the clients. Some horses seem to be more accepting of children with ADHD, for example. She even does work with siblings, allowing them to do exercises with the horses that encourage teamwork. While some of the children may not have many friends outside of “The Farm,” the horses are a constant friend to them, always ready for a pet when “their” person calls their name.
In addition to being a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Terri has an Animal Assisted Therapy Certification and recently finished her certification in Equine Assisted Learning (EAL). While the horses provide emotional support, a sense of security and help provide unconditional acceptance and trust, they also have the ability to connect with people in ways other humans cannot. This is something that Terri says allows her clients to come to Hope Adventures and think of it as a place where they can be outdoors and hang out with the animals and not just a place that they come for therapy. I think we can all appreciate that, whether it’s moments spent just sitting and watching our horses amble around in the field or being out with our horse on the trail in the middle of the woods surrounded by nature — there truly is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a (wo)man.
When asked what her future goals for Hope Adventures were she simply said that, “it becomes a place where clients can step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and get a chance to relax and unwind. Kids can be outside and work with animals that they might not otherwise have the chance to interact with. Adults can come and take in the smells and learn to relax and unwind for the session. Hope Adventures gives clients a unique, out of the box type therapy experience. It also gives clients a sense of responsibility when they have to feed and take care of the animals, plus a small taste as to what farm life is like. It gives them hope and something to look forward to each session.” Personally, I think she is already doing just that.
Hope Adventures can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HopeAdventuresLLC or their website www.hopeadventures.com. They accept out of pocket pay in addition to Capital BCBS, Highmark, and Quest insurances.
About Layne Shaffer:
Hello, my name is Layne Shaffer, I’m 31 years old and reside in Thomasville, PA. I did not grow up with horses, I actually couldn’t really tell you of anyone in my family that is a “horse person.” My parents finally gave into my begging when I was around 10 years old and found a local woman who gave riding lessons — probably hoping that after six months or so I would lose interest. Now, 21 years later, I am the manager at one of the top Thoroughbred breeding farms in the state of PA, have competed at multiple IBRA National Finals, one Retired Racehorse Project Makeover and the inaugural TIP Barrel Racing Championship. What started out as English riding lessons and my parents allowing me to purchase my first pony at 12 years old, has turned into a passion for running barrels and the Thoroughbred racing industry. Most of the time I love my job and I enjoy sharing stories from inside the industry that buck the stereotypes that many people have about the Thoroughbred breeding and racing business. In the pathetically small amount of “spare time” that I have outside of something involving the horses at either work or home, I enjoy doing custom beadwork because, not only did I inherit approximately one third of my mother’s artistic talent, I 100% inherited her “I can make that myself” gene. I am also an avid Harry Potter fan, borderline total geek, but I promise that I did not actually name my current OTTB Floo Powder, that he came with that name, and it was simply a sign from above that he needed to come live in my barn. I’m currently somewhere in between ‘I can live with a completely torn LCL for the rest of forever’ and ‘I will get my knee fixed as soon as we get through the TIP Championships and MD Million Day.’ Either way, I’ll be the one hobbling around the Horse Park come October in a pink and turquoise knee brace — because who doesn’t opt to match all of their horses tack when they tell you that you get to pick the colors of your custom brace?