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The power of horses

Tal Hartuv - 24 August 2022

Fenced off by rows of citrus trees twenty miles from Tel Aviv is a horse ranch, unlike many other ranches in Israel. There are 55 horses, ranging in size and age, the smallest being no more than a meter tall. Each horse is known by his or her name, and each horse has a different speciality. There are the gentle-in-soul horses who are the first in line to introduce the fearful and apprehensive by bombarding them with love. Then there are horses used to build self-confidence in people, assertiveness, empathy, emotional awareness and even problem solving. Some horses are for children, some for adults and some for both. Every horse is known by his or her name, and what he or she is best at.

The ranch is a a therapeutic center used by disabled people army vets and civilians suffering from trauma. Horse therapy is not knew. The Greek physician Hippocrates  (“hippo” being Greek for “horse”) who was the Western “Father of Medicine,” championed the therapeutic potential of horseback riding over two thousand years ago.

The ranch itself buzzes with activity from dawn to night. It is community in action. Wherever you look, there are adults and children grooming, feeding, washing, brushing, riding, or leading a horse around one of the two large sandy arenas. Some of them are receiving horse therapy, but many have just come from afar to assist and do whatever it takes to teach others – through horses – a wonderful and unique set of life-skills.

For the brainchild of the project, Danni Stireen, who has always known the healing power of horses, just to see an incredibly shy child or traumatised civilian, riding around with their head held high and a grin on their face, makes it all work while.

Participants pay for their therapy which is somewhat subsidised by business people who come to the ranch as a company team. A day out with horses is crucial to those stuck in offices six days a week. They return to work refreshed and with renewed energy.

There is nothing about the ranch that feels medicinal in anyway, but the opportunities of nature, community and connection that it offers, makes it exactly that. The ranch is a healing place without hospital walls or medical staff walking around in white coats.

Danni believes that these gentle horses are not only healing but also shed light on how humanity can improve. A horse is a non-judgmental creature, present, innocent and clean-hearted and it is these very qualities which enables people to feel safe. Horses encourage us to open up to each other, to love and be loved.

A testimony as to how valuable this work is, was tested during the Corona virus. Under Israeli regulations, public places were either limited to a number of people a day or closed down. Desperate for the wellbeing of his horses who he could not continue to feed, and close to tears, he alerted his clients on social media.

Within days, donations came in; but not from corporates. Money came in from the very people who had been helped by the horses. To his astonishment Danni received mail from children who had been treated there. Many sent their pocket money along with a painting or letter of encouragement. Those very heart-felt and touching donations were enough for Danni to know that there was too much at stake for the place to close. And now, due to the love in the community inspired by the 55 horses – all with their own name and purpose – the ranch is thriving again.


Tal Hartuv

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