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1. To help inner-city or suburban children and families, especially those of color who don't typically have equal access or opportunity within the horse industry, learn about the natural lives of horses and overcome any fears or misconceptions they may have.
2. To nurture empathy, as well as love and respect for self and others, by facilitating safe and impactful experiences for children/families in the target population to interact directly with horses. The power of this program lies in the magic of bringing horses and humans together who (individually and collectively) share the struggle of learning to cope effectively with challenging life circumstances.
3. To provide a safe, intimate, friendly, respectful and enjoyable experience where authentic connection is built based on empathy, freedom of choice, freedom of expression, mutual curiosity and a deep sense of wonder and exploration.
Alternative to Traditional Therapy
Unfortunately, formal therapy and counseling are seen as taboo within many families, and this perception can be perpetuated well beyond the family unit. In many cases, the church is considered the only safe place for individuals and families to go for help. And women, across various cultures, often carry the burden of being the glue that keeps everyone (and everything) together. Mistrust of experts who don’t come from within one’s own community (i.e. ‘’We don’t talk to outsiders about our family problems”) is a major obstacle when it comes to getting needed support for mental and emotional health. Any activity that “suggests” therapy is often met with resistance.
4. To facilitate organic heart-felt interactions that are equally respectful and healing for the humans and the horses.
Author Kimberly Mills
& daughter JaKiyah
The Urban Equine Connection Program (UECP)
A Sacred Space for Vulnerability
One of the most important factors when facilitating transformational experiences, especially for youth, is creating a safe, relaxing and calm environment where vulnerability feels natural. Horses and other animals can really help with this.
The Unbridled Farm is not your typical equestrian establishment or business facility. It’s Kim Hallin’s private residence and the four special horses who provide the foundation for The Urban Equine Connection Program are members of her family. The only “job” these horses have is to be authentic, to honor their true nature and to share their innate gifts for connecting with the participants at a highly intuitive level.
Any experience of confronting and overcoming a major fear is deeply empowering. When a child (or adult) can also realize that a fear they’ve been harboring is based largely in misunderstanding and misperception, they begin to recognize the benefit of questioning their existing perceptions and beliefs about other things too. This opens up a whole new world of possibility, particularly when the participant can be gently encouraged to look for potential in other places they might never have imagined it could exist – including within themselves and others.
When horses are given the autonomy, freedom of choice and opportunity to express their true nature authentically, they behave very differently than when they feel constrained, controlled or manipulated. The same is true for us. When a young person witnesses and experiences this different way of being - both with horses and with themselves - a lightbulb of monumental proportions gets turned on.
And from there, the possibilities are endless…
In almost all cases, these collective images, stories and experiences create some level of fear and hesitation about interacting with horses. And yet, many of these children and adults still hold a deep fascination for horses and are eager to learn more.
Meanwhile, just about every horse living in captivity has experienced some level of coercion, manipulation, physical pain, emotional stress or blatant abuse doled out by human hands. Rarely do horses have the opportunity to interact with humans in any capacity other than as beasts of burden. It’s truly beautiful to see the transformations in engagement, trust, confidence and curiosity from both the humans and the horses who participate in these healing sessions.
When participants visit Unbridled, they quickly recognize they have arrived somewhere special. Children are always accompanied by a familiar, trusted and responsible adult. Kim graciously welcomes the guests into her home and introduces her animals as beloved members of the family, all of which helps to create an intimate atmosphere and feelings of safety.
Most urban and suburban children and families today never have the opportunity to interact directly with horses. Their perceptions about horses (and other large animals) are often based in images portrayed in movies or on TV, in news stories or through personal accounts offered by friends and family members who’ve had (sometimes frightening or traumatic) experiences with large animals. In some cases, direct personal experiences with mounted police or interactions with working carriage horses in downtown settings may have shaped an individual’s perceptions of horses - and our relationship to them.
Kim Hallin would like to express love and appreciation to her co-founding partners for the Urban Equine Connection Program:
Would you like to sponsor a UECP Session?
If you would like to support the pilot phase of this exciting new program, we invite you to consider becoming an Urban Equine Connection Program (UECP) Sponsor!
Sponsorship contributions can be paid via PayPal in one of two ways (please note "UECP" in the comments either way!):
Directly to Unbridled, LLC:
Checks made out to Unbridled LLC with "UECP" in the note line can also be mailed to 5743 Sauldam Road, Ravenel, SC 29470.
Through our partnering fiscal agent, The Illumination Society 501(c)3 (Federal EIN 22-3218395), for charitable tax purposes:
Checks made out to the Illumination Society with "UECP" in the note line should be mailed to PO Box 10776, Newburgh, NY 12552.
The average UECP session lasts 2-3 hours and includes up to five participants. The total cost per session (which includes two paid facilitators) is $300.
Any sponsor contributing $3,000 or more annually (covering the cost of 10 sessions) will qualify as a Herd Leader and be invited to participate in a customized equine-inspired experience of their own at the Unbridled farm.
Note: Participants in the Urban Equine Connection Program are required to write a note of appreciation and lessons learned at the end of their session to be shared with the sponsors whose generosity make this amazing program possible.