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Miniature horses, big benefits at Mustard Seed Farm in Foster

By MELANIE THIBEAULT, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

FOSTER – Nestled down a dirt driveway off Plainfield Pike in Foster is a big, red barn that has an even bigger mission to help people grow and learn, face challenges, and celebrate diversity with a little help from horses.

The Mustard Seed Farm, a nonprofit organization located at Red Rock Farm at 189 Plainfield Pike, was founded in Rhode Island a year and a half ago by Peggy Trimmer, a licensed foster care trainer and equine therapist who moved to Rhode Island from Ohio.

As both a clinical and non-clinical equestrian center, Mustard Seed mainly offers equine-assisted psychotherapy and equine-assisted growth and learning programs for children and adults, Trimmer said.

Trimmer, who grew up with horses and began a career in social work in 1990, said she thinks that equine therapy is a great way to help people understand more about themselves and one another.

“It’s powerful, it’s moving,” she said. “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Her beloved horse, Heart’s Desire, nicknamed Dez, passed away in 2011 and inspired the program.

“We do a lot of really cool stuff,” she told The Breeze on July 10, when five girls were preparing to put on a show with miniature horses that they learned how to train.

The farm has both regular-sized horses and miniature horses, which are “adorable” but have sassy attitudes, Trimmer said.

Horses are natural therapists and teachers, the farm’s website says. They “have the ability to mirror human body language.”

Working with horses, people will learn that in order to change a horse’s behavior, they’ll have to change their behavior as well.

The farm has a large indoor arena, two outdoor arenas, grassy pastures and paddocks for the horses, a cross country course, and a 20-stall barn.

In addition to the summer camp, the Mustard Seed Farm offers traditional riding programs and therapeutic riding programs.

Through games, activities, and interactions that are designed to each child’s physical or emotional issues, children are supposed to connect with horses and build their confidence and self-esteem.

The group’s mission is to challenge people “to see the world, themselves, and others in a different way” by building on strengths and weaknesses “so everyone can live their authentic lives.”

The farm also offers different workshops, sessions, and programs for individuals or families, war veterans and military personnel, students, and hospital patients.

Psychotherapy sessions can help with post-traumatic stress disorder, anger management, depression, marriage and family issues, eating disorders, grief and loss, and addiction, and other issues, according to the farm’s website.

On different occasions, the staff brings the miniature horses to hospitals to visit elderly and sick patients. They also host workshops for school groups.

A women’s group is in the works as well, Trimmer noted.

On July 10, family members piled into the big barn to watch as the girls, who were finishing a week of summer camp at the farm, and their counselors walked the miniature horses around the barn, had them jump through hoops, and perform other tricks, such as standing on top of a metal pail.

While the tricks may have seemed simple, Trimmer said that training wasn’t as easy as it looked.

The girls, ages 6 and up, spent the week learning how to work and partner with the miniature horses.

“We’re huge advocates for no abuse,” Trimmer said, adding that they teach the girls not to hit or beat the horses but how to work with them.

“None of the kids could do that when they (first) came here,” she said.

Some of the kids may have physical or mental health issues that working with the horses helps them with; others are just there to learn how to work with the horses, according to Trimmer.

The farm is offering three summer camp programs this year, where kids can work with the miniature horses and build relationships through natural horsemanship while learning about their moods.

The next and final session, for kids ages 6 and up, will run from Aug. 10 to 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For $250 a week, kids will also do crafts and activities and make new friends.

People can sponsor a child to attend camp by making a monetary donation.

Some of the camp counselors are students from the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center in Providence, who Trimmer said are also “giving back” and “learning how to grow.”

When the show was over and everyone applauded, the girls gave their horses a sweet treat of watermelon – a favorite food of theirs, Trimmer said – before going to see their families.

For more information or to sign up for the summer camp program, call Trimmer at 740-815-4123 or visit themustardseedfarm.com .

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