Healing through horses: Equine therapy at Midland’s Remnant Fields

Remnant. A word that means leftover, what remains or what’s left behind. It’s a piece of something bigger and something to build upon.

This is the vision behind Remnant Fields, an equine therapy center in Midland. Here, it’s a word that’s meant to remind us that we all serve a purpose. No one should feel discarded or left behind. It’s a place where the remnants are joined together to create a beautiful picture.

Brian and Carla Hunt, founders of Remnant Fields, have a special relationship with horses that span different seasons of their lives. Carla was heavily involved with horses in her adolescence and working with them became a therapeutic outlet for her during that time of her life.

Brian and Carla Hunt, founders of Remnant Fields.

For Brian, it was family members who owned horses which he got involved with from a young age and he credits that experience helping him as a young child.

Many years later, the two were going through some challenging times and Carla and Brian found themselves reconnecting with horses.

“There was a turning point in our lives and we were reminded of the power of how horses can heal,” describes Carla. “With our own lives as a testimony to this healing power, we knew that we were called to share this gift with others.”

Brian works with a horse on the property.

Remnant Fields began to serve the Midland community in 2018. They are a faith-based, nonprofit organization with a mission to help others through equine therapy. Remnant Fields is a sister ranch to HopeWell Ranch, another therapy-based organization located in Wiedman, Michigan. As a new organization, they have received guidance, mentorship, and internship through HopeWell Ranch and continue to partner with them.

Remnant Fields works with all ages to provide equine therapy. The approach and duration of therapy is determined on a case-by-case basis. It is tailored to meet the vast and individual needs of each client.

People seek equine therapy for many reasons. Some find relief from anxiety or depression and others find that working with horses can help to overcome a personal obstacle or work through a specific problem. Corporate groups have used equine therapy for team growth and development. Equine therapy can also be used with at-risk youth, children coping with trauma and is a very effective approach to therapy for veterans.

“There was a turning point in our lives and we were reminded of the power of how horses can heal.”As a veteran himself, helping other veterans and their families is especially important to Brian. “It’s not just for the walking wounded, the veterans themselves, but also for the family members that experience the effects of PTSD,” he says.

Brian described an event he led for veterans dealing with combat trauma.

“One person in attendance had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had fallen earlier in the day before coming to the event. “When they arrived, one of the horses immediately came up to the gentleman with the injury and essentially kissed the man on the head!”

“Everyone was in disbelief and moved beyond words. It’s when things like this happen that I’m reminded of something greater happening here,” he says.

Inside the stable at Remnant Fields.

In contrast to traditional conversational therapy, equine therapy is more of a metaphorical learning experience. Clients are guided through dealing with situations and challenges, with the horse offering these opportunities.

Equine therapy comes in two forms. Equine-assisted learning is designed to help overcome obstacles with an individual approach. In this format, there is one patient, one horse and one equine specialist. The goal is to use the horse to learn to work through an obstacle.

“Horses have such a large and significant presence,” says Carla. “Many people find that just having them near helps to get to the root of an issue faster.”

Remnant Fields began to serve the Midland community in 2018.

The duration of therapy varies, but a six-week timeframe is usually a good starting point. A six-week summer program will be available starting mid-June for those interested in equine-assisted learning. Each lesson is 75 minutes long and the cost is $115 per session. Equine assisted learning is also offered at Remnant Fields with more or less than six sessions. Each course of treatment is based on the individual needs of the person seeking therapy.

Another approach is called equine assisted psychotherapy. Remnant Fields uses the Eagala (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) Model to offer this form of therapy which requires both a mental health professional and an equine specialist and is an alternative to traditional in-office talk therapy.

The Eagala Model is designed to use personal and physical experiences to empower clients. Carla points out that many people respond well to being outside in nature verses the confines of an office. “As with equine-assisted learning, equine-assisted psychotherapy is very much client-focused and is something we can tailor in order to be very sensitive to each patient’s needs.”

Honkey the donkey is able to travel and help others off the property.

The course of treatment ranges as well, but six weeks is a typical starting point. Remnant Fields is able to bill participating insurance companies to cover costs. Eagala Certification is necessary to be able to offer equine assisted psychotherapy and Remnant Fields was able to obtain funding for Eagala Certification with help from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation.

Remnant fields is currently home to four horses, two donkeys and four goats. The horses and donkeys are used for equine therapy, while the goats are friendly hosts to visitors. Carla notes the animals at Remnant Fields are not all what people would consider ‘typical stable horses’.

“Some of our horses are not what some would describe as beautiful show horses and some have challenges of their own,” says Carla. “Patients tend to be very responsive to these animals with disabilities and imperfections.”

Many find these traits relatable, which could not present itself any better in the mission that Remnant Fields stands by: all have value, all have a purpose.

“Patients tend to be very responsive to these animals with disabilities and imperfections.”
Remnant Fields even provides opportunities for those interested in the benefits of equine therapy that are unable to visit their facility. Because of his size, their donkey named Honkey is able to travel to local organizations and allow Remnant Fields to offer equine therapy to places like nursing homes.

Research shows that therapy involving animals can alleviate symptoms for patients. Petting, hugging and brushing animals has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce depression in patients. These visits are also helpful and joyful for caregivers.

Animals all need to complete a training program before they are able to assist in therapy. At Remnant Fields, horses first undergo a basic evaluation process: Are they friendly, approachable and do they have a sound mind and even temperament? Do they have or can easily learn the basic handling and leading skills?

Remnant Fields has volunteer opportunities for those interested in getting involved.

If a horse passes all of these criteria, they will still require time to become adjusted to new surroundings. Once a horse is acclimated, they are trained to be therapy animals by being put into potentially stressful situations. They are put under pressure and stress with stimulants such as loud noises and small spaces. Therapy animals are exposed to visual stimulants and sounds that may seem strange to them and participate in mock trainings and therapy situations.

Carla says that training can include basically anything out of the animal’s normal routine. Because of his ability to leave the farm, you may even see their donkey continuing his exposure and training while out and about in the community.

Honkey has been known to frequent public places like Petsmart and Tractor Supply Company in Midland. All of these training activities are in an effort to desensitize the therapy animals and teach them to be non-reactive to situations that may arise in a therapy session. It takes most horses about a year to settle into a program.

As a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing their passion and touching the lives of others, the founders of Remnant Fields are always open to help from community members.

Therapy is approached on a case by case basis at Remnant Fields.

When asked how people can get involved, Carla quickly answered lightheartedly.

“We need help anywhere and everywhere!”

Assistance can take many forms: donations, sponsoring a child, sponsoring an animal, becoming a mentor, and caring for animals.

“We are currently looking for mental health professionals to support equine assisted psychotherapy,” Carla explains. “We are also looking for help with website development and help with our social media presence to further spread the message of the things happening here.”

Visit the Remnant Fields Facebook page for postings of upcoming activities and opportunities to become involved. Project Solomon is a current program for veterans in which Remnant Fields partners with HopeWell Ranch. Also, be on the lookout for details coming for Heaven for Heroes, an event for veterans in our community happening this June.

Those seeking more information on equine therapy are encouraged to contact Carla or Brian by phone at (989) 577-5050.

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