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By: Natalie Davies

Happy Hooves Wellness, a Dexter family farm that focuses on social, emotional and mental health, is one of 80 organizations across the country taking part in a “Seen Through Horses” campaign this May, Mental Health Awareness Month.

Founder of Happy Hooves Wellness Crystal Birchmeier said the farm’s staff of Equine Facilitated Learning coaches, psychotherapists, teachers, and equine professionals work with clients and classes to improve mental health by incorporating horses, nature, education and mindfulness practices.

Photo courtesy of Crystal Birchmeier

Birchmeier hopes The Seen Through Horses campaign, hosted by Horses for Mental Health, hopes to raise $2,500 to support underprivileged populations to receive sessions at reduced or no cost.

“It would be awesome if you can meet our goal because I’m going to contact other local nonprofits, like Garrett’s Space… and Ele’s Place,” Birchmeier said. “One of my goals is to reach out to nonprofits like that and see if we can bring in groups and get large majority of it paid for to pay the coaches and the farm and everything through Seen Through Horses.”

Happy Hooves opened in 2010 when Birchmeier and her husband bought the family farm built by her father. It started as a traditional farm and started to transition to a wellness farm when Birchmeier met her mentor Jillian Kreinbring in 2019. Birchmeier said human and horse wellness are interconnected.

“You really can’t have one without the other because when you work with horses, every time you touch a horse, you’re impacting them and every time we’re around them, they’re impacting us,” Birchmeier said.

The farm offers yoga, private psychotherapy sessions, agility summer camps and more.

horse standing in green meadow with rainbow

Photo courtesy of Crystal Birchmeier

“Everything about the farm and what you learn on the farm, you take back into your life,” Birchmeier said. “If you come in once a week, there’s otherwise many, many hours in the week. The idea is what you learn you then apply. For example, people who sit all day during work can come do chair yoga because they’ll get some ideas on how they can move when sitting at their desk.”

Birchmeier said the farm is open to anyone above kindergarten age. She said most clients are weekly, and about half are youth and half are adults.

“What their sessions look like just greatly depends on them. I have everything from kids looking to build life skills to almost retired adults looking to find connection and grounding,” Birchmeier said. “I have a client with a high pressure job just wanting to connect back to everything that isn’t work and just chill.”

She emphasized though Happy Hooves offers classes catered specifically to the youth, the farm is not just a kid thing and there’s a lot of options for adults.

“I don’t want the adults to feel like they can’t do it,” Birchmeier said. “We have a lot of adults who come here because maybe they have kids who are neurodivergent and they are stressed out or exhausted. The sessions give them 45 minutes to come here where we’ll work on ways to cope and handle stress.”

Happy Hooves will be parked by Anchor and Beacon Elementary School on June 6 and 7 to promote literacy, Birchmeier said. Happy Hooves provides Horse Powered Reading services.

“Horse Powered Reading integrates social-emotional learning with academics; thus allowing students see and experience reading with their entire mind, body and emotions by creating metaphors for the skills involved in reading,” Horse Powered Reading’s website says. “Students interact with horses from the ground, while using toys and props to identify obstacles and learn five critical reading skills – phonemic awareness, decoding, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.”

To learn more about Happy Hooves, visit www.hhooves.com.

Photos courtesy of Crystal Birchmeier

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