Harmony with Horses is an Experiential Learning Centre that offers Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL), but also provides an environment that nurtures your spirit. A place to leave behind your cell phones, social media, video and online games, sports and news feeds, and recharge your own batteries surrounded by pastures, forests, ponds, streams and all the healing gifts of nature. No noise pollution. No air pollution. No light pollution. Facilities can be booked for day-excursions with or without FEEL sessions, for groups of up to 10 people. Bring your Yoga class, your Meditation group, your book club, church group or other spiritual or support group and spend the day communing with nature and your friends.
In this interview, Tricia Rudy, owner and operator of Harmony with Horses discusses FEEL and what Harmony with Horses has to offer.
When did you fall in love with horses?
I’ve been drawn to horses all my life. I feel more at home around them than anywhere else I’ve ever been. It’s never been about the sport of horses, the competition or the athletics. It’s always been about the way they make me feel when I’m with them.
What is FEEL?
FEEL stands for Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning. It is a method of learning based on the principle that horses can teach us about ourselves, our gifts, our strengths, and where we are out of balance or out of touch with our true purpose. They do that by connecting to our experiential being, our body, our heart and showing us who we really are.
What made you decide to want to start Harmony with Horses?
It started as a dream of mine years ago when I read a book called the Tao of Equus by Linda Kohanov. At the time, it was only that: a dream. About 4 years ago, working as a Court Reporter in Newmarket for 6 years it dawned on me how horses and the FEEL method could help so many of the people that walked the halls of the courthouse. The victims of crime, especially domestic abuse, the accused persons, dealing with addictions and other mental health issues, and our youth, acting out through criminality, when they really were just trying to cope with their own emotional turmoil. I also witnessed the toll it takes on the people who work within the justice system: police, EMS, lawyers, judges, Court staff, and how vicarious trauma can impact those people’s lives as well. At the time, I had just purchased a farm and brought my own horses home to live with me. The rest, as they say, is history.
What sort of programming do you offer?
I’ve created three distinct branches using FEEL principles to target those areas identified in the courthouse.
HAY – Horses and Youth – violence prevention, victim awareness, emotional integrity et cetera.
HELP – Personal development, self help, addiction recovery, healthy relationships, et cetera.
HOPE – Professional development for anyone working in high stress environments, dealing with vicarious trauma, post traumatic stress, burnout et cetera.
Tell us about the horses used in the program.
I currently have 10 horses here. They range in age from 5 to 25. There are multiple breeds, sizes and colours and come from completely different backgrounds: dressage, school horse, trail horse, racehorse. Some of them came here as rescues; starving or sick or abandoned (or all three!). Some of them have known nothing but the most loving and kind homes and owners. I don’t want to give away too much about them. Part of the fun of FEEL activities is the process of learning about them, and what they can teach you about yourself.
What are your goals for this year?
I realise that the future of Harmony with Horses will depend on creating a strong and loyal support network of strategic partners to deliver the best outcome for the most people. I need resources in the justice system – lawyer referrals, victim witness endorsement, probation officers and police. I also need resources in the community and charity organisations such as rehabilitation centres, women’s shelters, fund raising initiatives, and raising awareness. Guidance counsellors, therapists and HR professionals need to understand how work with the horses can augment and enhance their hard work to help people through their difficulties. This year my focus is on developing those relationships and delivering the work to the people they bring out to the farm.
Next 5 years?
I have one big project left to do so that I can deliver programs throughout the year, and not just when the sun is shining. I need a covered space to do the work. That’s an expense of $150,000 to $250,000. I would like to see this becoming my full time job in 5 years, which in effect, would be my retirement.
What are you struggling with?
There are two things I think most of us struggle with when we’re trying to manifest our dreams: Time and money. I have a great job now that I work from home which is perfect for allowing me develop and deliver Harmony with Horses at the same time. Right now it pays all the bills and I’m very grateful for that. But every hour that I’m working, my attention is diverted from taking Harmony with Horses to the next level, and while it is a great job, my hourly income is modest at best. I created Harmony with Horses as a non-profit because I truly believe that the people who need it most may not be in a position to pay the prescribed fees for service. Horses are expensive. They each require at least $200 a month just to feed them and tend to their basic care, (vet, farrier). That’s $2,000 a month right there in expenses ongoing each and every month whether they’re working or not. Four of the horses I use are owned by other people who of course contribute to these expenses but it’s an ongoing balance between earning enough to pay the bills and taking the much needed time out of my day to develop partnerships and deliver the work to the people that need it.
Is there anything else you would like others to know?
The hardest journey anyone can take is the journey within. Horses have been our companions on so many journeys historically, going into battle with us, seeking out new frontiers with us, plowing our fields, carrying our belongings, sharing our homes and our families. That relationship goes back thousands of years. To me it makes perfect sense that they should be with us as our guides as we take that journey within to find peace and purpose and connection to a power greater than ourselves.
Harmony with Horses is also hosting an open house Thursday June 9 from 2-5pm. You can find out more on our events page.
An open house focussing on their youth programming is on Wednesday June 8 from 1-4pm. Again, you can find more information here.