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‘Hooves up’ for animal presents

Teaching kids and young adults compassion for rescued animals

Posted: January 6, 2009 8:42 p.m.
Updated: January 7, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Children and young adults with the social skills group at Heads Up - Therapy With Horses in Canyon Country. First row, from left: Nico Hall and Greyden Massey. Second row: Joshua Gilman, Matt Hernandez, Riley Bowers, Rachel Finn and Micah Molacek. Third row: Tim Burch, Rachel Bowers, Dana Bowers and Michelle Lewis.


Christmas is the season to give to others, but that doesn't always mean giving to other human beings. Our animal friends and Mother Nature appreciate gift-giving at Christmas time, too.

As a "giving to others" project, two social-skills groups from the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys joined together and created gifts of the season for those creatures in need.

The main goals of a social-skills group are to help children and young adults improve their abilities to make and keep friends, develop more self-confidence and behave more appropriately. The SCV and SFV groups meet twice a month and have themes they work on with a professional facilitator.

The groups collaborated on the "gift of giving" theme for December in their separate meetings.

The first project they worked on was making pine-cone bird feeders for the wild birds. Huge pine cones
"imported" from Big Bear were slathered with peanut butter, rolled in wild bird seed and hung up with string from tree branches for the birds to dine upon.

Then the groups decided to make something a bit more challenging: horse treats.

With oats, chopped fruit, carrots and molasses, the treats were mixed and baked for our equine friends at Heads Up - Therapy With Horses. Located in Canyon Country, Heads Up is a nonprofit organization that provides therapeutic riding for children and adults with disabilities.

So, on a winter day in December, Terry Tindell, chief instructor of Heads Up, graciously gave the group of treat makers a tour of the ranch and watched while they delivered and hand-fed the cookies to the therapy horses. The horses eagerly ate the cookies and gave them a "hooves up."

Other critters who benefited from the groups cuisine the same day were the inhabitants of the Gentle Barn
in Canyon Country.

This nonprofit organization teaches people kindness and compassion through interaction with the 60 animals rescued from abuse, including horses, cows, goats, pigs and more.

The two groups visited during the Gentle Barn's fundraising Sunday and fed the goats and pigs their homemade cookies. Again, the treats received the grunt of approval from all.

The children and young adults of the social skills group really enjoyed their day and experienced the true joy of giving to those in need.

Gentle Barn's phone number is (661) 252-2440. The Web site address is Heads Up - Therapy With Horses' number is (661) 297-7433


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