Whispering Grace Horses, a non-profit organization, matches horses with humans to help heal broken spirits.
Anyone who has seen a therapy dog walk through an assisted care facility or a hospital, knows the healing power of the human-animal connection. Bill and Marcia Shearer of Jackson Township work with horses to make that same kind of connection.
The Shearers operate Whispering Grace Horses, a non-profit organization that matches horses with humans to help heal broken spirits. The organization, along with a long list of sponsors, hosted a two-day horsemanship clinic at the Stark County Fairgrounds last month.
The Shearers work along with their two daughters, Cara Zehnder and Kristin Boylan, to foster healing and rehabilitation. They work from the Arohra Farms, owned by Amanda and Tom Rohr, in North Lawrence. The only requirement to attend their free sessions is that a person “wants to come to learn.”
“… We emphasize the relationship between the horse and the human,” Bill Shearer said. “We teach fundamental skills of being with a horse. Those skills range from learning to be with a horse in the stall, to cleaning the stall, being with the horse on the ground all the way to learning to ride the horse.”
He added that persons providing care and love to a rescued horse find a sense of hope and healing for themselves when they help the horse overcome its challenges.
The team currently works with three rescued horses, Personal Cat, a thoroughbred, Lazy Lucy, a quarter horse/thoroughbred mix and Doc, a quarter horse.
The Shearers asked all of the horse riders belonging to Stark County 4H groups to submit an essay with the title, “Why Would I Want to Spend the Day with Two of the Finest Horsemen in the Country.” They selected 26 of the essay writers to attend the July clinic at no charge.
“We've seen inspiring changes in our own clientele after spending time with our horses,” Bill Shearer said. “We see a range of emotions from laughter to tears and those healing emotions spill over into their every day life. Everyone works to establish a relationship using patience, persistence and forgiveness.”
World champion equestrian father-daughter team, Richard and Sarah Winters of Ojai, Calif., helped local 4H participants learn new ways to work with their horses during the event.
“Richard Winters and his daughter are experienced horse trainers who understand the language of horses which is sometimes referred to as horse whispering,” Bill Shearer said. “They are here to teach participants how to handle their horses better and to educate them on certain aspects of riding their horses.”
Winters and his daughter were showing horse riders how to handle the horses by showing respect and using safe methods to move the horse from one place to another. Richard Winters has been working with horses for more than 30 years.
Page 2 of 2 - “We believe that horses are amiable,” Richard Winters said. “Their defense is to run away when they feel threatened. They want to be a follower versus a leader. If a rider is having trouble with their horse it's usually because they aren't presenting to the horse the way it understands.”
Winters said that horses communicate with humans and other horses through their body language. Horses do pick up a few verbal clues but most often try to understand humans by what people do with their hands and legs.
“We travel all over the world working with horses and their handlers,” Richard Winters said. “From English riders to backyard riders (we) find that horses are the same everywhere. They want their handlers to be leaders.”
Carisa Wise, a Navarre resident and member of the Western Spirit 4H group, attended the seminar with her horse, Adrian, a 5 -year-old mare. Wise got the horse when it was only 2 hours old.
“Adrain’s mother was owned by my neighbor and I became Adrian's owner right after she was born,” Wise said.
The clinic included learning to work better with horses, understanding their communications methods and an afternoon filled with tips for riding safer among other activities. The Winters worked with the riders in groups and spent one-on-one time with most of the riders and their horses.
“I've already learned that I need to be more patient with my horse,” Wise said.