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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Horses to provide therapy in Lisbon

    Laila Martell, 4, of Moosup, finds a new friend, as Serenity Ranch in Lisbon, holds its first photo with Santa and horse fundraising event on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. Santa, aka Rich Ledoux, who is allergic to horses, works with is wife, Lisa Ledoux, president of Serenity Ranch, and Gunny, a 14-year-old quarter horse. The couple reside on the grounds of the ranch. (Tim Martin/Special to The Day)
    Donavan Delaney, 10 months, of New London, in the arms of his father, Marcus Delaney, visits Serenity Ranch in Lisbon, during the ranch’s first photo with Santa and horse fundraising event on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. Santa, aka Rich Ledoux, who is allergic to horses, works with is wife, Lisa Ledoux, president of Serenity Ranch, and Gunny, a 14-year-old quarter horse. The couple reside on the grounds of the ranch. (Tim Martin/Special to The Day)
    Lovelyn Bozsum, 3, of Uncasville, and her grandmother Lauri Bozsum, also of Uncasville, prepare to have their photo taken with Santa and Gunny, a 14-year-old quarter horse as Serenity Ranch in Lisbon,, holds its first photo with Santa and horse fundraising event on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. Santa, aka Rich Ledoux, who is allergic to horses, works with is wife, Lisa Ledoux, president of Serenity Ranch, and Gunny, a 14-year-old quarter horse. The couple reside on the grounds of the ranch. (Tim Martin/Special to The Day)
    Piper Ferris, 5, of Killingly, looks up at Santa as she is having her photo taken at Serenity Ranch in Lisbon.The ranch is holding its first photo with Santa and horse fundraising event on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. Santa, aka Rich Ledoux, who is allergic to horses, works with is wife, Lisa Ledoux, president of Serenity Ranch, and Gunny, a 14-year-old quarter horse. The couple reside on the grounds of the ranch. (Tim Martin/ Special to The Day)

    Lisbon ― With a gleeful grin for his parents, 10-month-old Donovan Delaney of New London rubbed the face of Gunny, a stout quarter horse who gently moved his head upwards to embrace the boy’s touch.

    Gunny is one of 30 horses who reside at The Serenity Ranch on Kimball Road, which on Saturday welcomed a steady stream of visitors eager for photos with Santa and Gunny. The event served as both community outreach opportunity and fundraiser for the family-run charitable organization acclimating to Connecticut after a move a few years ago from Bozeman, Mont.

    Serenity Ranch was founded by the mother and daughter team of Susanne Carter and Lisa Ledoux as not only a rescue facility but a place to share in the healing power of horses. In Montana, the ranch focused on bringing together female military veterans dealing with the struggles associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or trauma.

    Individuals were paired with a horse to learn grooming, riding and other activities that over the course of a week inevitably helped participants learn life skills and self-confidence.

    The move to Connecticut two years ago was in part caused by the COVID-19 pandemic along with the desire to rejoin some family members who still live here. After moving to the United States from England, Carter and Ledoux had lived in Cheshire for a time before settling in Montana.

    Here in Connecticut, Carter and Ledoux said they expect Serenity Ranch will have a broader reach and plan to welcome men, women and families for support programs, with their first month-long program starting in February. Participants will groom, walk and bond with the horses during their time.

    “We feel that there’s just a greater need out there,” Carter said.

    The group is still working toward gaining nonprofit status.

    When asked what benefit a horse can have, Carter smiled and looked out over a portion of Serenity Ranch’s 47 acres where families gathered on Saturday, inching as close of possible to the horses. The property includes a walking path through the “magic woods,” that borders the pastures.

    “Horses are amazing creatures. They love. They know when you need a hug. They’re comedians and like to make you laugh,” Carter said. “Horses have the ability to bring you into the present moment.”

    The horses at Serenity Farms came with the family from Montana and include Sunny, a 37-year-old quarter horse whose been with the family since the move out west. There’s also Punky, a 30-year-old Paso Fino who could be spotted on Saturday walking outside of the fence where the other horses were confined.

    Asked by a visitor if she could pet Punky, Carter’s reply: “He’s feral. He won’t let you touch him.” Punky was one of 40 mistreated horses rescued from a Montana ranch and taken in by Serenity. Since his rescue, Punky’s always been a wanderer, avoiding touches or riders. Carter said she gave in and simply lets him roam the farm “loving life,” on his own terms.

    Some horses still train and work while others are retired and living out their lives in a nurturing environment where, Carter said, they can have fun.

    The money from Saturday’s event, the organization’s first fundraiser, will not only help fund future programs but also the day-to-day operations at the farm, currently performed mostly by Ledoux and Carter. It’s a lot of work, Carter said, and it would be nice to have the funding to hire farm hands.

    Ultimately, Ledoux said she would like to welcome small groups for four-day-long retreats, grouping together people with similar backgrounds -- women, veterans, law enforcement, new moms and anyone else who might benefit.

    “They can create a supportive environment organically,” Ledoux said. “There are many in the community who need that support.”

    Louise Hart visited the ranch on Saturday with husband Bruce and grandchildren Molly and Suzie.

    “They just make you feel good,” Louise Hart said about the horses.

    For more information, visit www.theserenityranch.com or Facebook.

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