A work of heart at Safe Haven Farm

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Tara Girard surrounded by all she does best.  During a break at this past weekend’s horse clinic and show event, resident surrender horses Moofasa, the mini horse, and Blue, an Arabian pinto, lean into the conversation lovingly as Tara provides words of encouragement to Kallie and horse Cole.  Photo by Tracy Davis Pierce

by Tracy Davis Pierce

HOLLAND — This summer I set out to line up some great experiences, including a horse camp, for our granddaughter, Kallie, age eight.  Through word of mouth and a bit of online searching, I learned of Kingdom Therapeutics at Safe Haven Farm in Holland.

The name doesn’t sound like it offers a traditional horse camp or riding lessons, so I had a tough time finding it through a modern internet search for “riding camps, lessons, northeast kingdom, VT.”  A little persistence and at last the words “kingdom” and “horses” took me to a Facebook page reference dedicated to Kingdom Therapeutics, LLC (limited liability company). 

Now that I have had the pleasure of experiencing a small part of what they offer, I realize that “traditional” only applies to their founding values at this wonderful facility; they clearly demonstrate hard work, perseverance and a deep commitment to their ever-growing equine family.  The rest of what is offered there is what I refer to as “a work of heart.”

Tara Girard is a name I’d heard often over the years.  Word on the street was that she could take on a horse that many had given up on and figure out what the issue was.  Most often, I learned, she helped and, in most cases, saved someone’s beloved horse from a painful injury or condition through her knowledge of corrective hoof and leg care, in combination with advice about feeding a limited diet to prevent laminitis, for instance.  Laminitis, commonly referred to as “founder,” is a painful condition caused by high insulin-producing feed, such as too much fresh green grass or grain containing high amounts of sugar.

Cole, a surrender horse destined to be put down this past March by previous owners due to acute founder in all four legs, got a second chance when Ms. Girard took him in and was able to correct his footing through her own farrier skills.  She put him on a non-insulin-producing diet and he was paired Kallie Buck for summer camp riding.  Both went into the summer green and unsure.  Perseverance and a lot of encouragement prevailed!  Together they took four blue ribbons, two reds, and a points trophy.  Photo by Tracy Davis Pierce

Ms. Girard and her partner Kristen Watson have far more to offer than riding lessons at their facility.  Ms. Watson is a licensed clinical mental counselor (LCMHC) and qualified developmental disability professional (QDDP).  Together she and Ms. Girard provide opportunities for (human) survivors of traumatic experiences to partner with abandoned or abused horses in order to achieve a new level of trust in each other.  They offer private therapeutic sessions for youth and adults with complex trauma, developmental disabilities, and mental health issues, including at-risk youth and veterans.

Kingdom Therapeutics, LLC, may carry the word “limited” in the company trade name, but there is nothing limited in Ms. Girard’s and Ms. Watson’s willingness to help animals and people alike.  Ms. Girard, is married to Eddie Girard and is the mother of a “tween” — 12-year-old son Wyatt, milks cows at Top Notch Holsteins to provide money for her household.  Ms. Watson is married to Skyler Watson and mother to two children, Noah and Aubrey, and foster mother to twin eight-month-old babies.  She is also a shared living provider.  (Ms. Watson previously worked in case management and as a school counselor but took the past year off as her youngest child transitioned to kindergarten.)  That would be more than enough for most to handle, but Ms. Watson and Ms. Girard devote all extra time to the farm helping connect humans and equines to improve their quality of life.

The pair, currently operating Kingdom Therapeutics under an LLC status, hope to have some time to sit down and figure out the paperwork to apply for nonprofit status.  This would open opportunities for donations and better funding.  Or, as they laughingly confess, “any funding!”

“There is no money to spare and is often a juggling of what gets paid when figuring out how to keep the barn lights on,” Ms. Girard said. But the two of them, along with their incredibly supportive family members and volunteers, cheerfully push forward, aspire to do more, and certainly make a difference.

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