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Susan Zody

Horses Help Children Find Their Voices

Offering at-risk young people hope and a renewed sense of confidence through equine therapy is Susan Zody’s passion.

Under the guidance of Susan and her team of mentors and counselors, children ages 7 to 18 find purpose, mentors and safe spaces at Narrow Gate Horse Ranch near Kokomo, Indiana. Therapeutic experiences with the horses build connections with the youth.

The horse ranch is a natural extension of the corn and soybean farm Susan and her husband, Mark, operate. Thanks to their farm’s resources and volunteer help from the area’s farming community, Narrow Gate Horse Ranch recently moved to a new location and is now exclusively owned and operated by the nonprofit.

“Without our ties to the farming community, I don’t know that we ever could have accomplished everything we have. It’s just a different kind of farm than our corn and soybean operation,” Susan says. “Our fellow farmers really stepped up in the last several months to help house horses, store equipment, move farm supplies, mow and plant pastures and donate hay.”

A lot changed for Narrow Gate Horse Ranch when the world shut down in 2020. Counselors were not allowed to work with children throughout the spring because of pandemic-related state restrictions. By August, when some interactions were allowed, the weather was not conducive to mask wearing and maintaining social distancing for therapy was problematic.

“Instead, we put that time into training our staff,” Susan says. “It gave us a chance to slow down and train our people. It also gave us time to finish our manuals and lesson plans. In many ways, it was a positive, because it gave us time that we never had before.”

The forced closure turned out to be an unexpected blessing in another way when Narrow Gate learned that the landowner was selling the farm where the horse ranch was located.

“We found a new location we could purchase and it was only about a mile away. The downside was that it was unimproved land with no fences, no barns, no nothing,” Susan says.

In December, a member of the local community offered a $50,000 match donation. A three-day radio share-a-thon enabled Narrow Gate to fund the match, making the land purchase possible.

“It’s cool to see how people who knew nothing about us, heard our stories about these kids and just gave. It was a really awesome experience for us,” she says.

Once the land was secured, Susan’s army of volunteers went to work.

A local community foundation in Kokomo provided money to install electric fencing. Volunteers gutted the old farmhouse to make room for a new on-site office and caretaker housing. Pastures were planted and horses and equipment were moved.

“My brother and brother-in-law have been out there every day volunteering, putting up two running sheds for the horses and building a lean-to with stalls,” Susan says. “It’s been quite a process, but it we are making progress. We are hoping to start seeing at-risk kids again later this summer.

“Most of what we do is about teaching these kids new ways to act and think, building their confidence and giving them hope,” she adds. “Without our farming connections, none of this would be possible.”

For more information about the Narrow Gate Horse Ranch visit http://www.narrowgatehorseranch.com/.

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