A $4,550 grant will help 10 Nixa children overcome challenges and trauma by learning to ride horses.
The Nixa Community Foundation awarded a $4,500 grant to the H.A.Y. Foundation, a Nixa nonprofit that provides therapy services in the form of horse riding lessons to kids that have social emotional problems, such as recovering from abuse or bullying.
The Nixa Community Foundation’s donation covers eight one-hour horse riding lessons for 10 children. H.A.Y. Foundation President Amy Koenigsfeld explained that $455 per student does not cover any costs of keeping the horses. The grant will cover staffing and insurance that the counselors provide to the H.A.Y. Foundation.
“We cover privately all of the costs of the horses, the feed, the arena—that’s all donated,” Koenigsfeld said.
Students are taught to ride at Laurel Arena, located west of Nixa along the James River near Delaware Town.
The H.A.Y. Foundation works with children between the ages of 4 and 17 who have social and/or emotional struggles that affect their daily lives. H.A.Y. works with a wide range of children who struggle with issues such as low self-esteem, high-anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, bullying or social struggles, bonding or relationship issues, selective mutism and emotional family issues.
The first child to benefit from the Nixa Community Foundation grant is a 5-year-old in the foster care system.
“He doesn’t even know how to communicate with a human or even an animal, so we’re starting out with the animal,” Koenigsfeld said.
Over the past four years, about 100 kids have been through the horsemanship lessons at Laurel Arena. In addition to learning how to ride, they learn from other kids who have already been through the program.
“Some of the kids that are in high school, after the 30 minutes of riding they also have 30 minutes of classroom time or one-on-one time with a peer. It’s high school or college-aged students,” Koenigsfeld said. “It’s to build self esteem.”
Some of the students also participate in group counseling sessions as they work with the horses.
“Instead of sitting down in a counselor’s office, it’s in an arena,” Koenigsfeld said.
The counseling sessions help teach life skills such as respect, responsibility, setting boundaries, communication skills and making choices.
Costs of the riding lessons are also reduced through the H.A.Y. Foundation’s partnership with the Ozarks Equine Therapy Center.