Tell us about you.
My name is Susan Hingst. I am the founder and CEO of Hay Day Ranch located in Maidens, VA/Goochland County. I am a K-5 Gifted Resource Teacher employed by Henrico County Schools. The ranch is the realization of my vision to use horses in equine assisted learning to restore emotional ties and trust in both horses and youth/families who are struggling emotionally.
What is the focus of your work?
The focus of our work is to create an environment where God’s unconditional love and acceptance is modeled to all who visit. We believe that by using horses, God provides hope and healing. Equine assisted learning and healing is the discipline of using horses as a therapeutic experience. Programs are hands-on and participants don’t feel they are involved in a therapeutic activity. The purpose is to provide an alternative form of therapy for individuals struggling emotionally when traditional methods fail.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The greatest reward is observing how a child/individual builds a bond of trust with a horse and starts to find his/her “voice” which parlays into other areas of life; confidence, problem solving, patience, impulse control, and communication skills. To use my horses to assist with the healing of hurting hearts brings such joy and confirmation that we’re on the right track.
What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?
The major challenges I have faced personally is trying to find alternative forms of therapy for my daughter who was adopted from a Russian Orphanage when she was 10. Traditional therapy was not effective; not only due to the language and cultural barrier but the myriad of emotions trapped inside her that she was unable to release to a traditional therapist. Her diagnosis was Reactive Attachment Disorder, which made it difficult for her to open up (verbally and emotionally) and trust people. She bonded immediately with animals and seemed to have an unspoken love language.
As a small, relatively new non-profit, our challenge is finding and retaining volunteers, sponsors and partnerships. Additionally, we’re always on the look-out for new “ranchers” clients, and the marketing and fundraising piece is challenging. We’re taking one day at a time with a desire to provide a good quality program while growing slowly rather than growing too big too soon.
What’s coming next for you and/or for your organization that really excites you?
- Clinician, Paul Rogers, from Remuda International will be hosting Hay Day’s first clinic, Ride the Mind, on May 28th-30th for individuals wanting to learn horsemanship skills and have a greater bond with their horse. We need help getting the word out about this event.
- We’re looking forward to our Spring Session starting week of April 4th through week of May 9th. We are in need of volunteers, ranchers/clients.
- Potential Summer Camp
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
ConnectVA is a wonderful resource! My background is not in nonprofit work so I’m glad to have support, networking opportunities and potential clients, volunteers, partners, and sponsors.
Anything else you would like to share?
In order to sustain our business, we are asking our clients/ranchers for a nominal fee of $10 per session; this is subsidized by the generous donations of partners, sponsors and individual donations. Our desire is not to turn anyone away due to an inability to pay. You can find out more by going to help us find sponsors and partners so our services to kids/youth can be offered free of charge. Additionally, we’re on the look-out for individuals looking to intern as a marketing/social media director, barn manager, and or CFO/Treasurer. Find out more by going to our website: www.haydayranch.com, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. For additional info, call Susan at 804.205.8883 or e-mail her.
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