Fall 2013: Stars of Touchstone Farm
Welcome to our Fall newsletter! We're shining a spotlight on hidden stars of Touchstone Farm – from managers, to volunteers, to riders, to clinicians, to alumni, to campers! Click a link below to learn their stories.
Brooke has a long history with the farm, starting as a Pony Farm camper at age eight, and then becoming a CIT and eventually Counselor. Later, she was a nanny for Boo one summer, and returned during graduate school to provide strategic planning support for the farm. She was founding executive director of the Farm Based Education Network, and is founder of Radish Road, a farm based educational consulting firm.
Brooke feels strongly that the magnetism of Touchstone Farm reflects the magnetism of the Monadnock Region. Time and again as she worked on her master’s thesis, the authors would note their connection to the region, with uncanny frequency.
“A great deal of what is special about the farm is the land, the place, the nooks and crannies. Add to that the people who are drawn to the farm – the campers, riders, teachers, volunteers, Boo. Add to that the physical activity required in order to be involved in the farm from riding to animal husbandry. It is a physically kinetic environment, using your own body to care for something other than yourself.”
Brooke has fond memories of the camp good night circle. Having worked hard all day, it was a time to reflect on the day and integrate the experience. The collective memories of those vespers have stayed with her through the years.
Corie is one of two PATH Intl. Lead Driving Evaluators. Hailing from Northern California, it takes Corie a series of “trains, planes, and automobiles” to get to the Monadnocks! She has taught at the farm multiple times, and praises Touchstone as one of the few places in the US that can accommodate a PATH Intl. Driving Workshop and Certification.
“Touchstone has the facility, staff, vehicles, equipment, and depth of driving horses not seen in many places. Add Boo’s warm welcome and you have a powerful combination.”
This fall, Touchstone Farm hosted the largest turnout ever for a PATH Intl. Driving Workshop and Certification, with Corie and Tina Bennett as evaluator and co-evaluator. Facilitators and participants felt the full versatility of the farm, with the ability to move from outside driving instruction to indoor classrooms to the warmth of the Lodge. Being able to finish the day networking amidst the participant group creates bonds that cannot be replicated when people are staying at multiple hotels.
Corie always hates to leave when the week is up, and looks forward to the next time she comes to the farm.
George hails from Hackettstown, NJ. A former Army Officer, he recently retired as State Director of YouthCorps, which works with 1200 at risk youth annually helping them to secure employment training while continuing their education. George has enjoyed horses his entire life, from riding to driving.
Following his retirement, George began volunteering at TRAC (Therapeutic Riding at Centenary College), where he is being mentored to achieve his PATH Intl. Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification. “I realized that TRAC tied together my two loves: horses and youth”.
George attended both the Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL) Certification and the PATH Intl. Driving Workshop and Certification this fall at Touchstone.
“It feels like a home away from home. The staff and volunteers go out of their way to make all the attendees feel relaxed and comfortable. Sharing communal time in the Lodge during down time allowed us to get to know each other, sharing a common bond created by the PATH Intl. Workshops. It was a wonderful way to step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, truly be in the moment, and absorb the vast amount of knowledge provided by the programs”.
Winter is a licensed social worker and is head of the Horse Power Lesson Program and Coordinator for PATH Intl. workshops and certifications. Winter began her connection to the farm as a volunteer for the Wediko Children’s School where she is a Senior Clinical Supervisor. She then volunteered time at the farm in exchange for participating in our Horse Power Instructor Training School to complete her certification to become a Therapeutic Riding Instructor.
Winter sees different little miracles each day as a result of her students interaction with the horses on the farm. These have included a student with memory issues able to remember the color of the cones in an obstacle class, to a student with speech and language issues who loses his stutter while horseback riding.
Winter was working with a child who was beginning to ride, very nervous and excitable. By the second ride was steering essentially on her own, with her head held high and a confident open face. There was therapy in that experience, and real achievement.
For children often drawn to negative actions, riding and the farm give the boys positive things to focus on. One child, who had only a season of riding experience, was reading the Strides (PATH Intl. Magazine) about the veterans work to ride program and was inspired to see that there were ways to achieve his goal of riding without funding. He organized several of the boys to come to the farm to volunteer in exchange for additional riding time.
Winter noted their teamwork was exceptional – helpful, happy communications, allowing the kids to step out of their normally more combative modes.
As they rode home, one boy said “This has been the best day I have ever had.”
He wrote a thank you note to Boo for making the farm available to everyone – in spite of real challenges to writing which required he type the letter instead. It was clearly a life changing experience.
George has been involved with Touchstone Farm, Pony Farm, and Horse Power in a myriad of ways over the past 16 years. He has been a camp parent, attended family weekends, has been bitten by the carriage driving “bug,” and is currently working to become a therapeutic riding and driving instructor, while simultaneously acting as Volunteer Coordinator. He has volunteered hundreds of hours this past year – in Horse Power Riding and Driving Lessons, and ensuring that farm maintenance projects are properly completed.
His connection with the farm led George and his wife Nancy to purchase property across the road at Stonegate, where they can hear the sounds of camp rolling across the hills as the girls giggle and laugh on the Lodge porch and lawn each evening.
Over the years, George was drawn to the farm from seeing what it does for people. He, and his family, loved the farm from their first experience. He felt he had found a new home. George and Nancy saw the impact camp had on their daughter, building a strong sense of caring for the animals. She is now a vet technician.
“It is a wonderful, fulfilling place to be. Watching Horse Power riders with severe challenges connecting with their horses and seeing the joy in their faces is an amazing thing to see and be a part of.”
George suffered a shoulder injury due to a carriage driving accident earlier this year, and credits Horse Power with helping him on his path to recovery.
Joan is a lawyer who lives in Dublin with her husband. Joan both rides and drives at the farm, and recently joined the Board of Directors. Joan said,
“I love the farm for very practical reasons: I love to be outside, I like to ride, and I then tried driving. Touchstone is convenient, easy to access, and fun. It enables me to take a dream of owning a farm and puts it in reach.”
Joan also great enjoys the meeting other people at the farm, from instructors and staff, to volunteers, to other riders and drivers.
“People seem to make these wonderful connections at the farm - you get help, advice, and support to make your dreams happen in a safe, fun, and knowledgeable environment!”
Shira, who is a Pony Farm camper, and her parents Abby & Mark, come from Westwood, MA.
Abby’s most important impression of the farm was her first one.
“We had toured several camps with Shira when she was 7. None were as caring or kind hearted as Pony Farm.”
Although Shira was completely game for camp, as a mom who didn’t ride horses, Abby wanted to feel comfortable that they had chosen a safe, nurturing, and wholesome place.
“I can hear Boo now saying “Take care of the earth, take care of the animals, take care of each other.”
Abby remembers numerous experiences in Shira’s past 8 years at camp that have helped her grow into the poised young adult she is today.
“At age nine, Shira elected to have friends donate to Horse Power in lieu of presents. She took pride in her decision and the accomplishment of persuading friends to join in, and received wonderful positive feedback for her actions from the Board, Boo, and staff. It became her thing as a result, and our donations followed her interests.”
For her Bat Mitzvah, Shira raised money for Touchstone through “Cupcakes for Causes”, getting friends involved in the process, talking to them about the farm and what it stands for. She and her parents want to give back so others less fortunate can enjoy the wonders of the farm and its animals.
Mico is a US military veteran injured while serving our country. He began riding at the farm but found it difficult to get comfortable. Boo suggested he give carriage driving a try.
Mico has really enjoyed driving. It has been very therapeutic for his left hand. Before being injured, he was left-handed. As a result of the driving lessons he now feels he is able to use his left hand much more effectively.
Mico drives Annie, who was awarded the PATH Intl. Region 1 Horse of the Year award.
His favorite thing is driving a cones course, and getting Annie to trot on! He knows that Annie enjoys the work as well.
Mico make sure he always has a few carrots for her at the end of each lesson – she looks for and loves them!