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Horse therapy is healing children at Rainbow Farms



(From left to right) Leigh Ann Nosser, Amelia "Millie" Sanchez, and Cadillac the Horse
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Rainbow Farms is helping children, including those with special needs, heal by using horse therapy.

Millie gets ready for her riding lesson with Chip.

Upon arrival, therapist, Sharon Berry Holmberg greeted her client with a bright smile. As she was getting ready to climb atop one of the horses to begin a session, she spoke about what brought her to Rainbow Farms and why she never left. “We’ve worked with lots of kids here who have autism. My grandson actually has autism and said his very first word on the back of a horse. He said, ‘go!’ We were so happy to hear him speak. So, I’ve just been here ever since,” stated Holmberg.

Students get to ride with their instructor, a therapist, and volunteers who all enjoy the time spent with horses. Horse therapy can benefit any children.

For this particular type of therapy, one half hour is spent with a child having a riding lesson, the next half hour is spent with them having a chance to talk with their therapist. This benefits many different children, both able and also those with special needs. It combines the relaxing energy of interacting with horses and the opportunity to discuss feelings. This gives participating children the tools they need to process emotions and learn to cope with the many challenges that life can present.

Volunteer, Linda Lutz watches as Leigh Ann Nosser helps her student prepare for a ride.

Amelia “Millie” Sanchez, 5, was excited to spend her morning riding one of her favorite horses at the farm, Chip. “Chip is my favorite horse and I love him so much,” she exclaimed. Chip was referred to as being a great babysitter with kids because of his sweet demeanor. “My other favorite horse, is Cadillac, but I can’t ride him yet because he is the fastest horse in the world!” Sanchez smiled throughout her whole lesson and was proud to show off her riding skills. After her ride, she dismounted and made her way over to Cadillac in the barn to give him a big hug around his neck and kiss him on the muzzle.

Millie can’t wait for the day that she finally gets to ride the “fastest horse in the world,” Cadillac

There are several volunteers assisting in lessons and therapy at Rainbow Farms. Leigh Ann Nosser could be seen gently guiding her student around the arena while the volunteers rode closely by. One of those ladies is Linda Lutz who said, “no matter what is going on in the arena, you’ll notice that there are always at least two of us staying right by so that they (the child rider) feel safe and encouraged.” She added that the horses who are being worked with are impossible to spook and are very calm, but the presence of more than one adult nearby offering encouragement helps increase a child’s confidence. Lutz could be heard saying, “that’s it, girl! Look at you! You’ve got this!” as Leigh Ann Nosser patiently taught her student how to properly hold reigns and steer her horse.

Leigh Ann Nosser and Linda Lutz help Millie learn how to properly hold the reigns. Sharon Holmberg stays close by.

Leigh Ann Nosser was happy to talk about her profession. “We have a really great group of horses here and that’s what matters most. We have horses who compete and show, we have rescues, and we’re lucky to have the ones who have been donated. They’re great with the kids. We’ve had so many children come here and it’s wonderful to see what the horses do for them.” She also spoke a bit about the students who show horses under her training. She beamed as she mentioned that they’ve been fortunate to participate in statewide competitions among many other wonderful accomplishments. As she continued to share more about the ways that the therapy has been so great for her students, she paused to say, “You just really have to meet ‘Miss Butch.’ She’s wonderful! She brings treats for the dog and the horses every day!”

Volunteers always stay close to a child rider to offer support and security.

Wilma “Miss Butch” Mitchell’s car began to make its way up the driveway and Major, Leigh Ann Nosser’s faithful dog, immediately recognized the vehicle. He ran excitedly to her and she instantly began to offer him treats. “He has to go to my lesson with me everyday! He waits for me and follows me around while I ride,” Mitchell informed. It was the truth. After Mitchell mounted her horse, Bif (Bee’s Impressive Fox,) Major followed them around for her entire lesson. Mitchell’s horse is 30 years old and her best friend. Lutz noted, “No matter what, he (Bif,) always takes care of her (Mitchell)”  After riding around the arena for a while, Mitchell talked a bit about the personality of her palomino steed. “Once, Leigh Ann left a plate of food she had been eating a bit too close to his stall. Well, Bif just waited for her to walk away and then stuck his head out and ate the food right off of her plate!” She laughed and patted him proudly on his neck.

Wilma “Miss Butch” Mitchell always brings treats for Major.

Lutz continued to elaborate on the ways that Rainbow Farms has helped children to heal with horse therapy. “We used to have this special needs boy who would come out here and we would lay him on his stomach facing backwards on the horse. He would rest his head and arms on the horse’s back-end and we’d just walk the horse around the pen. He’d almost fall asleep. It would make him so calm. His mother said that the calmness wouldn’t just be during therapy, it would last all day long.”

Wilma “Miss Butch” Mitchell loves her trusty companion, Bif. Bif loves her too.

Audrey Foster, 15, has been a volunteer at Rainbow Farms for the last two years. She was riding a horse named Noah who’d just been donated to the stable a week ago. Holmberg said, “We’re just so happy to have Noah, especially after the loss of a horse who we were all very bonded with. His name was Maestro and losing him was so hard, so the addition of Noah has been a blessing.” Foster shared a bit about how she came to volunteer at the Farms and how it has helped her heal in her own life.

Audrey Foster is happy to be riding Noah and living her dream.

“I’m actually originally from Tennessee,” Foster began. “Ever since I was old enough to talk I’d pray. I didn’t even know what praying was, but I used to pray all the time to have the opportunity to be around horses and now here I am. 15 years later and I’m here, living my dream.” The entire team of volunteers who were present took time to share their stories. They talked about their connection to the horses and the mission of Rainbow Farms.

Noah waits patiently for his next task.

Rainbow farms is focused on helping children heal. The people assisting and working there love what they’re doing. They get to watch children transform right in front of their eyes. “This seems to sadly be a dying thing,” Leigh Ann Nosser noted. “A lot of people don’t realize that this sort of thing is available to them anymore, and it’s such a wonderful thing that we’re doing with the horses here.” In a time where technology is so prevalent in the life of modern day children, there is less time being spent connecting to nature. For children who are processing so much in such a busy era, the team at Rainbow Farms believes that slowing down and connecting to horses may be exactly what children need.

After a spending some quality time with his young rider, Millie, Chip has a little help from Audrey Foster getting dressed.

Rainbow Farms is owned and operated by Leigh Ann Nosser, who has been a certified therapeutic riding instructor since 1988. Nosser received her first horse when she was just 8 years old from her brother, Rocky Nosser, who owns Beechwood Restaurant and Lounge in Vicksburg. She’s been passionate about riding and working with horses ever since. Rainbow Farms currently is home to several retired show horses who participate in “equine assisted activities and therapies such as hippo-therapy, therapeutic riding, equine assisted psychotherapy, and riding lessons.” You can learn more about what the facility offers by visiting their website here.

Millie finally says goodbye to Cadillac as Leigh Ann Nosser smiles.


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