Article in today’s paper about In the Company of Horses

These horses are truly special Posted: Thursday, September 15, 2011 5:00 am | Updated: 6:57 am, Thu Sep 15, 2011.

His name is Josiah. He is 10 years old and has autism. When he visits In the Company of Horses’ therapeutic riding program at the Majoda Stables in Moorestown, his favorite equine is Patches.

One day Josiah looked in the face of the paint horse and was convinced he detected a light flicker in its eyes. It caused the boy to wonder. And think. And explore.

In the months that followed, Josiah repeatedly returned to the stables and talked about experiments he conducted at home as he tried to find out about that flickering light. He drew diagrams and pictures of what he believed the light source was. He asked his mom to get him books about horses. His learning fuse had been lit.

“Josiah eventually learned that the light in Patches’ eyes was actually him,” said MaryAnn Brewer, president of In the Company of Horses, founded in 2006 and based in Pemberton Township. “What being around Patches did was make him curious to find out why.”

Brewer, 49, a 1980 graduate of Lenape High School, said the kids come, get on horseback and ride, offering them body stimulation along with emotional and cognitive connection.

“I’ve had autistic kids who went through the program who talked for the first time because of it,” Brewer said. “You can’t measure what that means.”

Brewer said horses and humans have a long relationship in the world of learning and growing. In stepping into the world of horses, people are affected physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The therapeutic riding program combines the living power of equines with the accepted standards and practices of psychotherapy, physical therapy, group therapy, character education, life skills, leadership training, and team building to produce uncommon results.

In one-hour sessions, equine specialists work in concert with mental health professionals to help those with challenges clear life’s hurdles.

“We need people to see that horses can be used for more than just riding,” Brewer said.

Brewer didn’t have horses as a child, but a friend in Monmouth County did. The love affair began. It continued into adulthood, when she graduated from Parelli University in Colorado, the top horsemanship program in the world, and when she bought a farm, which 12 of her horses call home.

“Horses don’t care about race, or socioeconomics, or whether you’re the president of Johnson & Johnson, or if you’ve been incarcerated,” Brewer said. “What they do is give honest feedback.”

There’s an old “MASH” episode in which Col. Sherman Potter says, “I’d still rather spend a day with a horse than with most people.” I sense that Brewer and the old colonel would have gotten along just fine, same as the horses at Majoda and their riders with challenges.

“The big thing is these people are getting out in the world and doing things others do,” Brewer said. “For example, if there are weak kids with cerebral palsy, riding may be one of the few things they can do. Riding helps them build courage and learn how to take risks. When you can learn to make a 1,200-pound animal do what you want it to do and go where you want it to go, imagine what that does for your self-confidence?”

Brewer recently heard from a man whose 25-year-old son has Down syndrome and who attended her therapeutic riding program. He said that last summer his son participated in the Gloucester County Dream Park equestrian disciplines for those with special needs, but had not ridden since and began failing to thrive.

“The father said doctors didn’t know why this was happening,” Brewer said. “They ran tests and everything. They concluded that the son was just depressed.

“But through psychotherapy they learned he wasn’t thriving because he wasn’t seeing and riding his horse every week. He was experiencing symptoms from lack of being with the horse he had a relationship with for two years. It just shows you the benefits of what a horse can do.”

For more information, visit

Phil Gianficaro’s column appears weekly.

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Learning To Let Go

It’s quite a task for any human being~ Letting Go~ Especially when you are committed to a particular outcome. It’s a great life’s lesson, learning when to hold on tight and when to let go.  What will teach you quickly is a rope burn! The kind you get on your hands when you hold on too tight for too long.  Oh, it creates blisters and hurts for days! And all week as we look at the dreaded rope burn, we wonder, why did I not let go sooner?  I wish I let go sooner.

Learning to Let Go

It takes two beings to create a rope burn a real one right there on your hands or a metaphoric rope burn on your heart.  Some get burnt and burnt and burnt before they learn the valuable lesson taught to any young person trying to have their way with a horse who has another idea.  It’s easier for everyone if you can just let go and watch the proud pony come back on on her own.  And the reward is an indescribable sense of accomplishment.

Ways we learn.

Remembering; Rhyming; Association How do you learn? 

People learn things by different processes:  remembering, some by rhyming,  still others by association.  Catchy phrases  said over and over somehow find their way into all areas of life!  Here are a few:

  •  Focus; Focus gives you feel; Focus and feel give you timing; Focus, feel and timing give you balance.
    Focus: to concentrate: to focus one’s thoughts.
    Feel:  to be or become conscious of.
    Timing: the system of those sequential relations that any event has to any other, as past, present, or future;
    Balance:  mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.
  •  Trust; Trust that they will respond, be ready to correct, not one more than the other (Balance).

    Sterling half asleep while eating.

    10 months old awaking from a nap in his lunch.

  • Do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always gotten;
    Einstein’s definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result! “
  •  Attitude is everything. Attitude: The way a person views something or tends to behave towards it.  Your attitude is a multitude of actions and/or reactions which eventually make up your character.  
  • Dance like nobody’s watching. Freedom and full self expression are gifts to the old from the young.  As teachers, not only allowing, but encouraging creative play and exploration are our gifts to the future. Going boldly where no one has gone before!  “Exploring What’s Possible”

Good things to remember whether raising baby horses or baby humans that fall asleep in their lunch!

Lessons Learned While Parenting From the Barn! (via parentingfromthebarn)

Added a photo!

Lessons Learned While Parenting From the Barn!  Lessons in Horsemanship learned Naturally from horses!  The best Pony in the world! We were out in the fields near the barn working on emotional fitness with two horses.  Our goal was to practice trot; canter and canter; gallop transitions going cross country. We set out from home together, the horses were fine.  We rounded the corner away from home and suddenly everything became scary, a hawk, the big grass cutting machine, the irrigation pond, … Read More

via parentingfromthebarn

Lessons Learned While Parenting From the Barn!

 Lessons in Horsemanship learned Naturally from horses! 

Heart of Gold
The best Pony in the world!

We were out in the fields near the barn working on emotional fitness with two horses. 

Our goal was to practice trot; canter and canter; gallop transitions going cross country. We set out from home together, the horses were fine.  We rounded the corner away from home and suddenly everything became scary, a hawk, the big grass cutting machine, the irrigation pond, deer, corn!  So the first time around we walked all the while feeling my chestnut Mare’s heart beating through the saddle! My young student a 14 year old girl who has been riding with me for 16 months was on the pony.  The pony who teaches all the lessons to this budding young horseman,  here at In the Company of Horses.  Her name is Heart of Gold, AKA Hearty or Heart for short.  

On the far side of the field, we needed to go between the woods and the corn field.  If you have done this before, you’ll know, the corn is tall in NJ in August!  There was space for us to get through with a bit of ducking under a couple of trees near the end.  We get through these trees and come out by the road on a lovely patch of grass between the corn and fence.  My 16.3 big red horse notices some large blue object in the neighbors trash and goes directly backward ~ fast.  Curiously,  Hearty and her student could walk around us to have a look for themselves.  And here was where I noticed the thoroughness of the lessons of the past 16 months were truly learned.  My young student who couldn’t wait to go practice her gallop; canter transitions, just waited.

 Wu Wei- (Chinese: “nonaction”), in Chinese Taoism, the principle of yielding to others as the most effective response to the
problems of human existence. That’s what she did. She just waited, not passive but  non aggressive. Wu-wei is thus regarded as the secret to human happiness,
for through “nonaction” all things can be accomplished. 

The proof: Next time around we trotted the whole thing, the third time, we practiced our gallop; canter transitions!