Horsing around encouraged in St. Michael

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Oct. 31, 2013 – St. Michael’s Hillside HOPE Thru Hooves recently hosted its fifth annual fall fundraising event to support raising awareness for mental health.

The “Country Hoedown Fundraiser” featured a catered dinner and live music by DJ Bubba Rocks and the Rowdy Cowboy Show. The Black Labels Dance Team also performed and taught guests a thing or two about line dancing, said Terry Bateman, executive director and co-founder of Hillside HOPE Thru Hooves.

Bateman, of St. Michael, said the whole idea of Hillside HOPE Thru Hooves came about in 2005 and it actually started working with clients in 2007. The organization was co-founded with her son Todd Bateman and his wife Angel.

Hillside HOPE Thru Hooves utilizes horses as a form of therapy called Equine Assisted Psychotherapy for those where traditional therapy, such as talk therapy, does not work, Bateman said. Clients work with horses on the ground, meaning no riding of the horses takes place, she said. Clients are able to work through the problems with the horses through a solution-oriented therapy.

“Horses accept you for who you are,” Bateman said. “They listen, and they don’t judge.”

Bateman said the clients set up things such as hula hoops, tires or other tools and obstacles to represent what is going on in their lives. One form of therapy is to walk the horse through what the client set up. Therapists, such as Bateman, will then talk about what happened with the horse with the client and work to find parallels in the client’s life, she said.

“Horses can be intimidating,” she said. “Someone who was abused might not feel empowered.”

Bateman said being able to move a horse through obstacles can be empowering to clients and help them to overcome their fears.

Hillside HOPE Thru Hooves also utilizes Equine Alternative Learning for community groups, businesses, schools or church groups, Bateman said.

“We focus on a specific topic, such as team building or communication,” Bateman said. Again, groups work to find parallels between the horses and what is going on in their own lives, she said.

Bateman said the “Country Hoedown Fundraiser” is a necessary part of making the organization more sustainable for the future. “Ninety-five percent of what we have been doing has been volunteer,” Bateman said. “Everything has been going back into the program.”

The money is used for horses, mental health specialists and equine specialists, she said.

Horses are key team members, and they need to be fed, Bateman said. Most of the money that comes to the organization is split between operations and scholarships for people to receive the services, she said.

“We’ve been slowly growing and making connections with counties, communities and therapists,” she said. “We can take insurance now, too. We have to write grants, do fundraisers, find people willing to donate. Our goal is to not turn anybody away.”

The money from the fundraiser helps with the funding of building an indoor facility. “We’ve been doing this year-round, regardless of weather,” Bateman said.

The organization has received approval from the city of St. Michael to be able to build the size arena needed. The indoor facility is a necessary part of Hillside HOPE Thru Hooves’ growth so that therapy can take place even when the temperature is 20 below zero, Bateman said.

“If everybody gave a couple dollars, that all adds up,” Bateman said.

For more information on Hillside HOPE Thru Hooves visit hillsideHOPEthruhooves.com or call 612-840-5366.

Photo credit: Terry Bateman

View this story as published on Press & News.

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