Animals as helpers and healers
Herman Melville is credited with saying that “no philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.”
Alongside homosapien's footprints through time you will find the pawprints and hoofprints of dogs and horses. The dog was the first domesticant and had a profound effect on human evolution. While the domestication of horses occurred much later, some scientists argue that they had an even greater impact. Dogs have long been helpers, guardians, herd managers—but horses, prior to the invention of mechanized transport, gave humans a level of mobility, speed, and strength that they had never before possessed.
For much of the last year, Covid-19 has tethered us to our homes, requiring us to distance ourselves from others for the protection of all. We have wearily masked up and trotted on through months of fear and isolation. Those of us lucky enough to live with animals in or near our homes well understand how critically important their presence has been to our mental and emotional wellbeing during these times.
Now we find ourselves anxious just when patience is most needed. Emerging vaccines have shined a shaft of light into our darkness. Like thoroughbreds at the starting gate, we can barely contain our desire to bolt, even knowing that to do so now would only further our suffering. What the world needs now are visions of galloping horses and playful dogs to distract us through these last darkest hours before the dawn.
Dunrovin Ranch in Lolo, Montana intents to do just that: distract people living in isolation with a unique online program centered on celebrating humanity’s passion for horses and dogs. Available to anyone from anywhere, each and every Monday from sunrise to sunset, Dunrovin’s free MontanaSocials.org website uses web cameras to immerses people in the sights and sounds of a real Montana guest ranch and present livestream programs that invite active participation in projects that range from art, to science, storytelling, and animal training.
The first series of programs will focus on horses and includes a worldwide humanitarian project to create Herd for Hugs. Lorraine Turner is an internationally known fabric artist, author, teacher, horsewoman, and owner of CalicoHorses.com who has brilliantly devised a global plan to not only bring us together, but to occupy our minds and creativity with horses. She has focused her talents and time on designing a simple-to-sew pattern for small, cuddly soft horses that can be homemade and sent out to the world to give hugs and fill worried minds with thoughts of dancing horses.
Lorraine is gathering A Herd for Hugs by soliciting volunteers to sew an eclectic collection of safe calico stuffed horses to gift to friends, family, or complete strangers of all ages, from the tiniest of children to the oldest of seniors. These charming little horses will let the homebound and their caregivers know that they have not been forgotten, and that the world is full of people ready to embrace them with the healing energy of horses. Her design includes a colorful patch for sewers to affix a personal note honoring a beloved horse, sharing an inspirational quote, or simply saying hello.
Happily, Lorraine reached out to Dunrovin Ranch to partner her with in this endeavor. As well as providing logistical support, Dunrovin’s weekly virtual gathering session at MontanaSocials.org is the perfect place for volunteers to socialize as they work together under Lorraine’s direction via live broadcasts with a chat facility, recorded videos, and a discussion board for questions, comments, and photos. This easy and fun post-holiday project begins on January 11th and continues through February 8th, which is just in time to drive the calico horses out of the barn to find their new homes in someone’s arms by Valentine’s Day or the Day of Random Acts of Kindness.
Visit A Herd for Hugs for the project schedule and details. There you can download the pattern, purchase a Calico Horse kit if you would rather not venture out shop for materials, and offer the name of someone you know who would love to be surprised by receiving a huggable Calico Horse.
In addition to Lorraine’s instructional broadcasts, Dunrovin’s Montana Socials’ interactive projects will showcase a wide range of people engaged in working with horses in various ways.
Each week we’ll visit with a horse trainer, Brandon Carpenter, from his ranch in central Montana and enlist him to coach (live, via our livestream broadcast network) Dunrovin employees to train a horse to drive and construct a stone boat for the horse to pull with hay to feed Dunrovin’s herd in winter. What a perfect job for a young three-year-old colt to learn until he is old enough to ride!
Author and storyteller, Lynn Backfield of Spirit Dance Equine Assisted Coaching, will host an interactive storytelling workshop helping people tell their own stories of how horses have impacted their lives. Bonding with an equine can be a life-changing process, and we want to collect the stories that depict the richness of partnering with equines of all types – donkeys, horses, and mules.
Dr. Anne Perkins, retired professor and founder of Carroll College’s Anthrozoology Program, will hold open discussions on what science tells us about the nature and importance of the bonds that people form with animals, especially with horses and dogs. Anne knows that our deep connections to animals is a fundamental and shared part of humanity.
The founder of the Equus International Film Festival and current development director of the Montana Center for Horsemanship. Janet Rose, has lined up four outstanding documentary films that passionately and forcefully convey the healing power of horses for veterans suffering from PTSD, foster children, people with disabilities, and even people at war with one another. These films show us the rewards that can be attainted through equine-assisted programs that center on equines’ abilities to see deep inside a person.
Dunrovin’s goal for its free Monday social livestream programs at MontanaSocials.org is simple: to fill these difficult times with opportunities to connect people of good faith, to promote kindness, respect, and understanding, and to foster friendships that cross the boundaries that so often divide us. The pandemic’s demand that we physically distance has only highlighted the vital importance to all of us of strong social bonds. May we emerge from Covid-19’s grip more committed than ever to cultivating social bonds that respect and nurture each individual.
Come help us send a herd of hugs out to the world. The beauty of a hug is that it warms and benefits both the giver and the receiver. We feel it together. Dunrovin hopes to meet you during our MontanaSocial.org Monday programs. Come early for the sunrise tour; stay late to watch the documentary films and meet with their producers. Join us this Monday and every Monday to explore, learn, collaborate, exchange stories, and embrace the goodness of people and animals.