Naugatuck non-profit expanding after increased demand for horse therapy

Naugatuck non-profit raising money for horse therapy
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT
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NAUGATUCK, CT (WFSB) - Mental health became a top issue for many in the pandemic.

It sometimes meant going to different avenues to get help.

A Naugatuck non-profit has been addressing the need with horses.

But now they’re seeing so much demand, they need to expand.

“I always wanted to be a cowboy, growing up,” said Fern Gonzalez.

Gonzalez first started coming to Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center last year after seeing the benefits of equine therapy.

At first, the horses avoided him.

But as he got more comfortable, they did, too.

“Over time, as I continued through the therapy, the horse started to draw in more. then it got to a point I was able to hug the horse, I was able to pet the horse, brush the horse,” said Gonzalez.

The relationship building skills Fern learned have helped him off Hidden Acres’ property as well.

“Trying to be more trusting of people, learning there’s boundaries you need to set, learning how to draw people in and out,” said Gonzalez.

Relationship dynamics is at the core of Hidden Acres’ services.

Exploring it mounted and unmounted, the idea is to practice building healthy and trusting relationships.

“In real-time, with a horse, who is a social herd animal, these horses are always looking to connect and be attuned with, either their horse friends or the people who are with them,” said Rebecca Caruso, Clinical Director of Hidden Acres.

Fern is far from the only one to find this in the pandemic.

There’s currently a waiting list of about 30 people.

People who’ve had issues pre-pandemic also seeking help.

“They may already be in psychotherapy, or physical therapy, or occupational therapy, but they need to come out to strengthen whether it’s physical, emotional, intellectual disabilities that we can help with,” said Sandy Lee, Director of Development and Interim Program Director at Hidden Acres.

To keep up with demand, they’re looking to add another horse to their herd and build part of their property into another paddock, a place for the horses to relax and exercise.

If you want to help, you can find a fundraiser here.