Horses Are Great Therapists

Tuesday November 14, 2023

A youth learns to feed a donkey. Photo by Jen Wright

REGIONAL – Fair Winds Farm in West Newbury has partnered with the Amesbury-based Center for Children and Teen Center (CATCH) to provide equine-based therapy programs for young people.
“It seemed like a natural partnership.” said Carolyn Gayler-Romero, CATCH director.
Christine Turner, the executive director Link House, said of the equine therapy, “It is different than being in an office.”
A generous grant from Essex County Outreach funded a pilot equine-based program last summer for young people with Jen Wright, the energetic owner of the 8-acre Fair Winds Farm. The program, which does not require any prior experience with horses, teaches participants communication skills, problem solving, critical thinking, decision-making, self-regulation, confidence and creativity.
In addition to building trust with their horses, participants explore respectful, mindful boundaries with one another.
“The benefits of equine-assisted services have been recognized for a long time,” Gayler-Romero said. “Horses provide a no-judgment zone that holds space for the entire spectrum of feelings and promotes emotional growth. It was exciting to see the growing confidence of the young people who participated in the program, and we also were very happy to see the social connections made by their caregivers, who accompanied them to the weekly sessions.”
The program ran two afternoons a week for six weeks, serving two groups of four youths each, ages 9 to 12 and 13 to 17 in the joint program. It was designed to foster an understanding of the relationship between humans, animals and environmental health.
Working alongside animals can effectively relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to the program managers. When engaging with children diagnosed with ADHD, it becomes necessary to adopt a more moderate pace to interact with the 1,000-pound horses and 200-pound donkeys.
Participants learned to groom horses, which aids in the development of empathy for animals and humans.
In the program, the participants are also taught to put a halter on the horses and lead them through obstacle courses, which the youth created themselves.
CATCH, located in the Boston North Technology Park, is a program offered by Link House. In addition to Amesbury, it serves Newburyport, Salisbury, Rowley, Newbury, West Newbury, Groveland, Georgetown and Merrimac. CATCH specializes in addressing various mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, gender dysphoria, trauma, substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorders. The program offers both one-on-one sessions and therapy sessions, which are conducted either within the school or at the CATCH offices.
Wright, who feels fortunate to have had horses in her life since she was a young child, has more than 15 years of experience working with and developing therapeutic programs. Fair Winds farm also offers private lessons for adults and children.
Fair Winds Farm is at 14 Kimball Rd. in West Newbury. Please contact Jen Wright at 978-463-7446 or at
For more information on CATCH, visit

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