By REBECCA HAZEN
Happy Horse Play Farm & Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC) LLC, provides equine assisted therapies and riding lessons for individuals of all ages and abilities.
Owned by Candy and Danny Eddinger, the 63-acre farm is located on Sand Mountain in Trenton, at 365 Lyman Daniel Road.
The Eddingers originally had their horse barn just for personal use, friends, and for boarders. Eventually, they noticed that many of their clients were coming with diagnoses like ADHD, PTSD, or autism.
“We saw that our lessons translated into good behavior in the kids,” Candy Eddinger said. “We started looking for something that could support that.”
Happy Horse Play Farm & TLC is in the process of becoming a member center with Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH). Both Candy and Danny are PATH Equine Specialists in Mental Health and Learning.
Happy Horse Play Farm offers riding lessons for both children and adults. It is not required for riders to sign up under therapeutic riding, but most of the clients are in need.
Lessons are eight–week sessions with two weeks off. The fall session will start in mid-October.
Most of the clients come with no horse experience. Every student starts their lessons on the ground before getting on the back of the horse.
The farm teaches all disciplines of riding, starting with bareback riding, then English and then Western, once the rider is more skilled.
The farm also utilizes specialized halters and saddles, as well as a custom–mounting block, which helps people who have physical disabilities.
“I think we are less intimidating of a place because we’re not a show barn,” Barn Manager Madi Baldwin said. “We’re not concerned with what it takes to get a blue ribbon.”
The instructors will work with students in different manners. For example, for students that have sensory issues, they have a felt board with cut out pictures to help them identify items, such as grooming tools.
“She doesn’t necessarily like to touch the tools, but we need to see that she understands what they are and what they are used for, because that gives her the opportunity to learn things, too,” Eddinger said about one riding student.
There have also been instances where people had depression, and a relationship with a horse at the Happy Horse Play Farm & TLC helped them to go seek help.
“I have been around them all my life, but to see how they work for other people, it is quite magical,” Eddinger said.
“Horses are mostly non-verbal. You don’t have that pressure of somebody asking you things. You can engage quietly and with your physical body, and still develop a meaningful relationship,” Baldwin said. “If you just watch them, they talk with their body.”
A big part of Happy Horse Play Farm & TLC is teaching how much goes into owning and caring for a horse.
“One of my students likes contributing to the chores and it gives them a sense of ownership. She’s really invested in it,” Baldwin said.
The farm recently put in an all-purpose arena. An obstacle course and games will also be installed to teach the horses to be more secure on trails and around children.
“In this space, we could comfortably fit a class of five in here and have adequate length for each horse,” Baldwin said about the new arena.
The farm is also developing a miniature horse emotional program. The miniature horses, a mother and son duo named Elsa and Sparky, are used for younger children, and people who are intimidated by bigger horses.
Happy Horse Play Farm has a lot of horses that are disabled. The Eddingers feel it is important for kids and adults to see disability in a functional way.
For example, one horse named Apollo has trouble walking, and another, named Hank has one eye.
“The first thing that people say is that he’s not useful anymore, but he’s super sweet. For someone who comes in with anxiety or depression, this is the right kind of horse. He doesn’t have to be ride–able to make him valuable,” Eddinger said about Apollo.
“The visual barrier made it different and you have to improvise. He was having a lot of behavioral issues, but we have slowly started to ride again. The goal is for him to be used in the program. He was probably a well-loved horse at one time in his life,” Baldwin said about Hank.
Another horse, Dreamer, was going to be put down because he was deemed violent.
“What he really was is just a chicken, and he just needed someone to help him through that. He’s a big baby,” Eddinger said.
According to Eddinger, because the horses have come from unpleasant situations, they want the horses to be able to say ‘No, not today,’ if they don’t feel like allowing people to ride them.
“We need to teach children and adults how to see that in the horse and respect that,” Eddinger said.
Happy Horse Play Farm does not offer day rides, but they do offer time to ride in exchange for volunteering, such as barn chores.
“We are always looking for volunteers but they have to demonstrate their riding skills,” Eddinger said.
The farm is also open if someone wants to come to the farm and just visit the horses.
“We’re hopeful that this facility will be around for a long time. We are building an interesting community of like-hearted people, “Eddinger said.
For more information visit happyhorseplayfarm.com, or call Candy at (423) 987-2141 or Danny at (423) 987-2142.