August 20, 2020 | By Dayna M. Reidenouer
Winston Churchill, twice prime minister of the United Kingdom - the first time during World War II - had a deep affection for horses. He played polo, owned racehorses, and established a breeding program. "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man," Churchill is credited as saying.
That belief is a significant part of the philosophy behind equine-assisted therapy. Working with horses, whether grooming or riding, can have a positive impact on individuals' mental and physical health, which is why disabled military veteran Sara Hodgkiss, established a horse rescue on her family's farm, Woerth It Hollow, 269 Cooper Drive, Kirkwood. Her mission is to help other veterans and disabled people develop confidence and learn coping skills while rehabilitating and rehoming rescued horses. In June, Hodgkiss began offering a program on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. that uses natural horsemanship training sessions from John Beachel to help individuals relieve stress and experience personal growth.
Beachel, who lives in Conowingo, Md., was an Army paratrooper who served in the first Gulf War (1990-91). Beachel grew up with horses and discovered that he had a knack for working with them. After leaving the Army, Beachel worked as a trainer for 20 years. He now does clinics and teaches, starts colts, and retrains problem horses. He became involved with Woerth It Hollow because he wants others to experience the benefits of interacting with horses.
"They're coming to help me with the horses, but they're getting peace of mind. It fixes the human's problem while fixing the horse's," Beachel commented. "The trouble that horses have with humans turns out to be some of the same things people have. From the combat veteran side, I can see that. I can address their problem without them ever knowing I'm helping that (issue)."
Beachel noted that when he first left the Army, he never wanted to talk with anybody. For about 10 years, he slept only two hours at a time. "The only people who were able to get through to me were those who did it indirectly," he said.
The Wednesday evening program currently includes three clients and three horses, but there is room for up to 25 people and equines. They have been focusing on groundwork, which includes grooming and guiding horses through their paces while the human is beside them, not mounted on top of them, and gaining an understanding of how horses think.
"I've taken the word 'make' out of my vocabulary. I create a situation in which the horses want to do what I need them to do," Beachel said.
The goal is to give the horses enough skills to be utilized so they can be adopted into good homes, while at the same time helping veterans join society and have a chance at a better life, Beachel said, adding, "It's kind of a one-hand-washes-the-other deal."
Individuals may bring their own horses or work with rescued equines, and they may join the program at any time. Hodgkiss noted that she hopes that the current group of participants will be able to mentor newcomers as time goes on. "The goal is to help them and allow them to help others," she said.
"It gives them personal confidence that they can do this," Beachel said. "It's an experience that we hope will set them on a path to bettering their horsemanship and themselves."
There is no cost for military veterans or disabled individuals to participate in the program. The farm is continually undergoing work to make it wheelchair accessible, and Hodgkiss said she is looking for community support in installing access ramps. Individuals who use mobility aids and assistive devices are encouraged to participate. "We will make it work," Hodgkiss promised. "We have enough volunteers that nobody needs to be turned away ever."
Anyone who would like to contribute to Woerth It Hollow or learn more about the nonprofit organization may visit http://www.woerthithollow.net. Updates about the Wednesday evening program, such as schedule changes or cancellations, are posted on the Woerth It Hollow Facebook page. To sign up as a program participant or volunteer, readers may call Hodgkiss at 717-682-6976.
Army veteran Sara Hodgkiss (left), founder of a nonprofit equine/animal rescue at Woerth It Hollow, and fellow veteran Nancy Snelgrove flank Gizmo, a rescue pony that lives at the Kirkwood farm. The nonprofit animal rescue offers veterans and disabled folks a place to learn horsemanship
Fighter to Farmer
CANDY JEAN FOWLER
A disabled Army veteran with PTSD and epilepsy, Candy Jean founded CherAmi Farms Community Outreach in March of 2015. The group’s mission is to utilize the coping skills and mentoring abilities gained through military service to mentor and uplift at-risk youth through equestrian therapy methods, agricultural education, and a youth volunteer program.
East Coast Equestrian
Veterans Find Solace Amid Rescued Horses at Woerth It Hollow
Devoting yourself to a good cause is a challenge, but Sara Hodgkiss takes it a step farther, addressing two needs at once. Woerth It Hollow, Inc., in Kirkwood, PA, has both an equine/animal rescue and a program to assist veterans and the disabled by allowing them to embrace every aspect of rescue farming. Their slogan is “Every Little Effort is Woerth It”.