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HETRA welcomes two new miniature horses for new Onsite Learning Program

HETRA welcomes two new miniature horses for new Onsite Learning Program

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LaLa, left, and Merry pose with Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy occupational therapist and certified therapeutic riding instructor Cassidy Fredrickson in the HETRA barn. The pair are the newest miniature horses at HETRA.

Two new furry faces have joined the crew at Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy.

The addition of Merry and LaLa make for a total of four miniature horses working at HETRA. The pair were purchased by HETRA to serve participants of its Miniature Horse Onsite Learning Program, a new offering piloted this fall.

The pilot program included 24 events over the course of six weeks, piloted at six Fremont schools and two North Omaha schools through a partnership with the after school programs.

In Fremont, students received two days of programming, social-emotional learning that tied back to information on horses. In North Omaha, students received six days of programming. Topics included health and nutrition, diet, health and hygiene, as well as introduction to horse safety, communication, boundaries and teamwork.

The program aims to target lower income populations or those who may not have that exposure to animals like horses.

“It’s really about reaching those communities that don’t have access to service like HETRA,” said Cassidy Fredrickson, occupational therapist and certified therapeutic riding instructor.

HETRA sought out a second pair of miniatures because they felt that need was out there. This also allows both pairs to take turns making site visits, as well as working with participants of HETRA’s on-site programming.

“Being in Gretna, that’s a long distance from some of those communities in Omaha,” said occupational therapist and HETRA CEO Edye Godden. “We started thinking, how can we reach them and help connect them with horses?”

Merry and LaLa came with extensive show experience and have completed hours of training, including handling, commands and desensitization to things they might not be used to: bikes, large trucks, wheelchairs and dogs, for example. The pair recently completed a site visit to Gretna Wine & Spirits and their first school visit.

“They have to love people, they have to love that attention and be comfortable with that,” Godden said.

HETRA has done miniature visits with its resident minis Stormy and Blue before, primarily to senior living and special needs populations, but there was no curriculum tied to the visits at that time.

“Miniatures are great, they’re very portable and much less intimidating,” Godden said.

After success this fall, HETRA plans to fully launch the Miniature Horse Onsite Learning Program this spring. Programming options are endless and organizers have ideas on how to tie in math, reading, science and history into their programs.

HETRA also offers extensive resources on its website, through HETRA University. The free resource, found at hetra.org, features webinars, coloring pages, worksheets, educational videos and Story Time with the Minis.

To learn more about scheduling programming, contact Fredrickson at cfredrickson@hetra.org. HETRA is also seeking additional funding for 2022.

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