Montville farm saves horses, helps people heal

Laura Marr, 17, and other participants at a horse camp at Shari Rosati’s Healing With Horses program feeds treats to Doc, one of seven rescued horses at Wild Rose Farm in Montville.
Laura Marr, 17, and other participants at a horse camp at Shari Rosati’s Healing With Horses program feeds treats to Doc, one of seven rescued horses at Wild Rose Farm in Montville.

Before a 1994 auto accident left Shari Rosati comatose, she described herself as a “very high-stress” person.

She struggled during her four-year recovery until she met Pegasus Dreamer and Domino Effect, two horses that she rescued from an abusive situation in 1998.

“I learned so much from that accident, as horrific as it was and as much as I lost, but that’s not sad to me. That allowed me to continue in a different direction,” Rosati said. “And I always tell everybody that when one door closes, keep your eyes open because your next chance is right in front of you.”

Rosati founded Healing with Horses at Wild Rose Hose Farm in 2005 as a way to turn a “completely negative situation into a positive.”

The non-profit organization promotes wellness of the mind, body and spirit through equine assisted activities and therapy. Programs are open to the public. However, the services are geared toward helping people with emotional, behavioral and cognitive disorders, as well as those struggling with recovery from domestic violence and addiction.

She has seven volunteers at the Raymond Hill stables, aged 10 to 22, some of whom have become certified instructors and horse trainers during their time there.

Pegasus, now 33, lives on the Wild Rose Horse Farm as the de facto leader of six other rescued horses. The horses, along with other animals and volunteers, are both survivors of trauma and trained to help the traumatized.

The rest of the herd consists of Twister, Chase, Toby, Doc Spotted Bear, Renegade the Outlaw and Jimmeh the pony. Domino Effect passed away in 2012.

The horses also have their own pecking order, which places Pegasus at the top by age, strength and wisdom, Rosati said. She uses this to teach young visitors.

“We try to explain to children that this is why they have teachers and parents, because they have more knowledge, and it’s better to respect and learn from that then it is to argue with them,” she said.

The group’s main focus is “Youth At Risk.” They helps teens who are struggling with anger, addiction and bullying learn to face their problems in a controlled, calm and supportive group environment, and begin to heal.

Lexi, a 14-year old volunteer, said when she brought Kaitlyn, 13, to the farm, Kaitlyn was withdrawn due to “really bad social anxiety” and shyness. But after a month of working on the farm, Lexi said that she has seen a change in her friend, who now “lights up” upon arrival.

Rosati’s inspiration behind Healing With Horses stemmed from her own healing process with horses. They returned the favor by bonding with her. After a number of visits to horse farms to pet the horses, she learned how to speak again while simultaneously re-learning non-verbal cues. She later re-learned how to think, express her thoughts, and Pegasus even helped her take her first steps out of her wheelchair.

Reflecting on her experiences, Rosati said that she learned that there are five values necessary to have a healthy partnership with a horse: acceptance, trust, respect, leadership and partnership.

“You can’t have a partnership with your horse unless there’s acceptance and you have a purpose for the horse. There has to be clarity for the horse to understand you, and you have to be fair to it to establish trust. You have to have respect for each other, and then you will develop leadership; that’s how you establish a partnership,” she said. “These are the basic things that everyone here works with when they get a new horse. These are things that anybody working with a new horse should remember.”

She added that consistency and patience are also valuable qualities to practice while training horses.

The group’s Elite Equestrian Club is hosting its first all-day horse show fundraiser on 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15. Ribbons will be given out in 12 categories throughout the day. The show is open to the public for an entry fee of $10. Donations will be taken throughout the day and all proceeds will go to the “Youth At Risk” program.

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