Florida farm helps traumatized children heal and find hope

World Today

Losing a loved one is never easy, especially for children. But a small farm in the U.S. state of Florida is helping them heal and find hope – with the help of miniature horses. CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez has the story.

Some of the kids in the program – known as Tomorrow’s Rainbow – are too young to grasp the full concept of death, but they know someone is missing from their lives. At a little farm in Florida, children spend time with miniature horses. It’s equine therapy.

They start their day gathering in a circle. Whoever is holding the horseshoe has to say his or her name and who they’ve lost.

Julianna’s baby sister Emma was only 15 months old when she died.

For children, the horses are therapeutic, according to the director of the program. The kids have to take care of them and follow a routine. It provides structure while also having some fun.

“The other thing is that the horse is the only animal that has that natural ability to mirror your behavior,” explained Abby Mosher, the Executive Director of Tomorrow’s Rainbow.

“So as the children who are working with the horses, if they don’t like what they see and how the horse is acting, if they adjust how they are acting, they will adjust as well. And then finally it’s very difficult for a child to tell their story in the first person so we can ask, ‘How is Sparky doing today?’ And they will tell us, ‘Oh, Sparky had a bad day.'”

The goal is to make sure that a child’s life is not solely defined by the tragic death of a loved one. Children attend the program to make connections with the horses and to also meet other kids who have sustained similar trauma.

Declan’s dad died of a heart attack, three years ago. I asked him what does when he comes to the farm.

“I grieve,” Declan said. “That makes me feel good because I can talk to other people about how their dads or cousins or, like, sisters died. So it feels nice.”

Another member of the program, Angel Martinez, is the definition of resilience – and he’s only 11.

“My mom died because of murder, because my dad choked my mom to death,” he said.

Angel and his brothers have been coming to the farm for four years.

“This place has really helped me a lot, it helped me find my inner peace a lot, like everybody here is so kind and respectful to me. They are really nice. It’s like we share everything here, and it’s fine to cry sometimes,” Angel explained.

“We learn a lot of things about life.”

Then he shared his Christmas wish. “”I want to see my mom again. That’s for sure. And I also want to see my brothers grow up and be old people.”