When local non-profit Angel Heart Farm had their camera equipment (which they use nearly every day) stolen last month, we were happy to donate a new Nikon DSLR camera.
Angel Heart Farm is a non-profit organization that is the only one of its kind in Middle Tennessee and uses equine assisted therapy to help children with chronic and life threatening diseases like cancer, brain tumors, heart issues, liver issues, blood disorders, cystic fibrosis, and others. Referrals are provided from medical and social professionals, the American Cancer Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation, CancerFree KIDS, Jay’s HOPE Foundation, and many others.
On their first visit, the family is introduced to each horse and pony and meets the volunteer that will be working with them. When a family visits the farm, it is their time and theirs alone. Only one family visits the farm at a time so the attention remains solely on them. There is no time limit on visits—families can stay as long as they like and come as often as they please.
Children are paired with horses best suited to their size and ability and get to select the horse or pony they would like to work with. Next they are taught to be care givers instead of care receivers. This starts with learning the proper way to brush and feed their new friend as well as how to ride. If the child doesn’t want to ride, they can groom, feed, or simply pet the horse. Angel Heart Farm works with the entire family and gives everyone (parents and siblings included) the individual attention they need to leave their worries behind and enjoy the horses.
Angel Heart Farm works with the children’s medical providers to ensure the best possible experience for the child and family, including siblings. The goal is to improve the lives of the children through equine therapy in addition to their medical treatment, and to get the kids away from medical necessities and into the joy of horses and nature in a safe and caring environment. Studies show that pet therapy may improve mental and physical health, shorten recovery time, and decrease stress and incidents of depression. Both parents and physicians say they notice positive changes in confidence, self-esteem, and well-being.
All the horses are former show horses that are trained daily for safety and soundness. Children learn how to control a horse that weighs over ten times their own weight, and many have gone on to compete in horse shows, winning ribbons and building confidence.
When a child is sick, families often don’t know when their child will be well enough to visit the farm. Because of this, families get to make their own schedule at Angel Heart Farm, which is open 24/7 for all families. And if a child is too ill to visit the farm, they will bring the pony to the child.
Families are welcome for life at Angel Heart Farm. Children may continue to participate in the program even after their treatments are completed. Siblings return to the farm after the loss of their brother or sister. Angel Heart Farm is committed to families now and in the future. Over 250 families have visited Angel Heart Farm.
Two camps are held each summer for families: the Pony Princess Camp and the Cowboys Only Camp. The Pony Princess Camp is a one week day camp of riding, bonding and making new friends with children facing the similar issues, arts & crafts, and a horse costume finale and parade for parents, families, and friends. Cowboys Only Camp teaches boys to be full-fledged cowboys. They’ll learn from real cowboys how to rope a calf and ride a horse, plus there are arts and crafts geared towards cowboy traditions.
All volunteers are first aid and CPR trained and have strong equine knowledge to ensure they are phenomenal partners for the children and their families. Volunteers must pass a testing program and background check, and sign confidentiality agreements.
There is no cost for families to visit Angel Heart Farm. It’s free at a time when every penny counts. If you would like to help families reconnect in a peaceful and caring environment, sponsorships are available for both children and horses. Each courageous child receives their very own pair of riding boots and a riding helmet. It’s safe for the kids and transforms them into real cowboys and cowgirls. There are ten outstanding horses to choose from, and your gift offsets the cost of feed, farrier services, and vet services. Please stop by to visit with your new sponsored friend! There’s also a wish list for the farm, families, and horses available on their website.
Angel Heart Farm also travels with the miniature horses to educate children about horses and literacy, and visits nursing home facilities, the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, the Ronald McDonald House, hospital events, survivor days, the Butterfly Walk for CancerFree KIDS, and other awareness events.