BAINBRIDGE,Ohio - The winter of 2013 found Geauga Humane Officer Christian Courtwright rescuing several neglected horses from multiple private properties in Geauga county.
Following complaints which led to the rescues, Rescue Village employees and volunteers in Russell Township nursed many of those horses back to health. Some had been eating anything from gravel, styrofoam and plywood to survive when found.
One of those was "Beetle," a 20-year-old horse with a past unknown other than his will to survive. Many horses brought in when Beetle had been rescued were also tended to by other area horse farms.
Last October, Fieldstone Farms, a therapeutic riding center in Bainbridge Township, adopted Beetle with the goal to build up his muscles, slowly training him each day under the close eye of Equine Director Jinene Studzinski.
"He's put on about 100 pounds since he's been here," said Studzinski. "It's mostly muscle. The veterinarian that actually took care of him during the rescue is the same one used here. So, they came and saw him here and they were really excited that he was here."
"A horse can change a life" is one of Fieldstone's instruments of thought. The therapeutic riding center describes itself as one that "engages the therapeutic power of our horses to discover and nurture the special abilities of individuals, families and communities."
Fieldstone Farm's stalls, filled with horses tended by elementary students from Painesville School District's Maple Elementary on a field trip Friday, had patient horses enjoying the day as if in a pampering spa. Smiles visibly apparent on the students, these horses "at work" had to feel much the same.
Painesville School's intervention specialist Sherri Hegyes said that Fieldstone's horses were her "heroes."
A confidence-building trip for her students Hegyes has made often over her career, horses with the right attitude such as Beetle eases her mind ... and those of the parents whose children with whom she is entrusted.
"Being part of the program here at Fieldstone and interacting with these horses each week and learning these skills that they've never done like riding and grooming and tacking, they feel really good about themselves. They learn that they are really good at something. I think a lot of them feel like they may not be really good at math, or reading, but here they are pretty successful," said Hegyes.
Studzinski says that as someone who has been training horses most of her life, receiving a rescued horse with an unknown abused or neglected past can come with many challenges. That's why she takes her time training horses like Beetle.
"Unfortunately there are lot of other cases out there. It's tough to hear. It's unfortunate that it's always the animals that pay, but the good thing about this is that they were rescued and he goes on and gets another second chance at life and he gets to give back to all the people that gave so much to him to bring him back around. Now he's giving back to everybody else," said Studzinki.
"We love him here. He's got a great personality. He's got a little more spunk than some of our other ones do, but that's what makes him good because he interacts with people. A horse like him is great because he's got a strong work ethic and he likes the activity. He likes the social interaction with the horses, with the other people here, the volunteers and with over 200 students a week it gives something to do," added Studzinski. "It's a big change from the condition he came in with. We just love him."
For information on Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center call 440-708-0013 or go to their website.
Fieldstone Farm's mailing address is: 16497 Snyder Road, Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44023.