Horses provide therapy to families during quarantine

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Doctor with stethoscope
Valley News - Health

Five wild mustangs are providing mental wellness and fun to families during quarantine.

Kedra Holderman, owner of Peaceful Hearts for Change, first moved to Temecula 10 years ago. Her family helps run the property, and Holderman has partnered with Riverside County Mental Health for the past eight years doing camping and other fun activities.

Peaceful Hearts for Change is a place in Temecula for families to come spend time with nature and horses; however, when the pandemic hit, Holderman wasn’t sure what they were going to do or how they would feed their horses.

“We put together this program that I’ve been offering for a long time with everybody else, and I can’t tell you how many families were just reaching out like they were desperate to touch outside, touch sunlight,” Holderman said. “Most of my people have been returnees, return clients. I’ve got a lot of people booked weekly now because they’ve had such a good time.”

They offer a variety of options to choose from.

“We have the private park, the Elfin forest, the horse feed, a guided hike, so it’s kind of dependent on what each family individually wants. Some people don’t have any interest at all in interacting with horses,” Holderman said. “For some people, that’s their No. 1 go-to.

“Equine play is that we go out, we learn about the mustangs and we learn about how I adopted them and how they’ve been integrated into our program,” Holderman said.

Most children will learn how to put a halter on the horse and how to walk them.

“These kids show up and they can’t even pet a horse, and then they’re walking one by the end of an hour with them,” Holderman said.

The other part of the program is equine sessions.

“I do actual therapeutic work with the horses and with the clients,” she said. “It really kind of depends on what people sign up for is what they get, but the horses are always the one to tell us what’s going on.”

Holderman tells her clients that she is a testament to the work.

“As a young teenager I needed the help that I needed, and I went to residential treatment,” Holderman said. “I was thankfully provided with the opportunity to get the help that I needed with parents who could afford it, so that’s kind of my mission is providing the work for people who can’t afford it, who deserve to participate in this type of work.”

They’ve been providing sessions since 2014 but closed down for about four weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We took safety precautions, we sanitized everything and then it was one family at a time, we started with one family per day,” Holderman said. “We realized that we could really safely sanitize the items that people were using and so we started adding.”

They’re now holding four sessions a day.

“That’s kind of our average even without the pandemic, but I was only working Mondays and Thursdays,” Holderman said. “Now I’m working almost six days a week which means my horses are working harder. They’re interacting with way more families than they’re used to.”

Session times vary depending on the group, though a typical session is around 50 minutes.

“I’ve had some kids who come and they’re 2 and they’re done in 20 minutes, and I’ve had some people who come and they’re all adults and we work for an hour and 10 minutes,” she said.

Holderman doesn’t time the sessions.

“It’s about their experience, their joy and their time here at the ranch and getting away from everything,” she said.

San Jacinto resident Erica-Emily Chang first saw Holderman’s advertisement in one of the Temecula community pages where she was offering a social distancing, friendly staycation that allowed families to get away during quarantine.

“When you finally pull in, you drive around and there’s a lot of trees and it’s really mellow,” Chang said. “There’s like a little creek that you can go to that the kids can play in.”

Chang said that there was a grassy area where people can bring a blanket and have lunch.

“When that was done, she took us to the horses, and the horses are really cool because they come to you,” Chang added that she was surprised by it because in her experience she hadn’t seen a lot of horses that were that friendly.

“They all came over,” Chang said. “I had my daughter. She’s a year old in a baby carrier on my chest, and there were two that seemed to really like her. My son got to lead them around, and it was a great experience.”

Chang said that Holderman was really patient as well, and that there’s one highlighted aspect of the ranch.

“Definitely the horses – that’s what you go there for,” Chang said. “Wear closed-toed shoes, bring lots of water and sunscreen.”

For more information on Peaceful Hearts for Change, visit https://www.facebook.com/PeacefulHeartsRanch.

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at lhowe@reedermedia.com.