BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Each month, “WBZ Cares” highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community. This month WBZ is profiling Strongwater Farm Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Tewksbury, MA that helps individuals with disabilities and mental health issues.
Meet “the herd”. Among the dozen horses at Strongwater Farm, there's Cha-Ching, a black and white Gypsy horse with a moustache, Tinder, a big chocolate brown Icelandic horse, Nala, a fiery young mustang and Peaches, a small orange and white pony. All of the animals were chosen to be therapy horses because of their gentle, patient and intuitive personalities.
“There’s a lot more than giving an individual a pony ride,” stated Operations Director Patti Lessard. She says these horses have helped hundreds of individuals with disabilities, “Individuals that weren’t walking that now are walking. Folks that had challenges with speech, their way of communicating, their social skills have developed through the horses.”
Lessard says they have a lift system in place for getting people in wheelchairs up onto the horses and once they're saddled in, those individuals feel like they're on top of the world.
“Their seeing eye-to-eye. They’re not having someone bend down to talk to them. They’re equal,” said Lessard.
The center also helps a lot of veterans suffering from PTSD.
“It might be a veteran that’s been shut down and that horse would walk up to you and push their nose into your belly and say ‘Hey, I’m right here, you can love on me, you can trust on me, I’m here for you.’ And sometimes you see folks cry,” Lessard stated.
The day I visited the barn, just about everyone was in tears. That's because one of their beloved horses, 26-year-old Liam, suffered a severe leg injury while out playing in the fields. After consulting with their vet, Lessard says they decided the most humane and unselfish thing they could do for Liam was to euthanize him.
“You have to make the tough decision today, to let go, of another family member,” Lessard said tearfully.
Liam's stall is now empty, but his spirit lives on through the dozens of people he's touched over the years. Greener pastures Liam…
WBZ NewsRadio1030's Kim Tunnicliffe Reports