Wilderwood’s Pilot program opened on June 20. We are so appreciative of the participants who are piloting the curriculum and providing incredibly valuable insight to strengthen it with their contributions and ideas.
We were also honored to have visitors to Wilderwood on our opening Pilot day as well: Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small and Board Member Linda Stover came by to discuss our innovative program and view Wilderwood. The horses were on their best behavior and it was a beautiful New Mexico summer day.
The core of Wilderwood is its equine-assisted curriculum to work therapeutically with autistic teens and adults. By therapeutically, we mean in its original sense of the word: to heal, to restore health — whole body health encompassing elements of the physical, psychological, sociological, philosophical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual — from Greek therapeutikos, which in turn is from therapeuein, meaning “to attend” or “to treat.”
And, our horses are integral to all the therapeutic and rescue work we do at Wilderwood.
That brings us to the “rescue” component of our work. We consider this word in more ways than one. Whether it’s “rescue” for an autistic person relating to restoring or improving his or her sense of dignity, self-worth, and esteem, or it’s “rescue” for a horse to come to Wilderwood and assist us in the delivery of our program, the goal is the same: To provide a place of peace and healing; of discovering (or re-discovering) a sense of joy and happiness in living.
Part of our mission involves education through our curriculum for and to autistic teens and adults — as well as educating non-autistic people about our perspective on and about autism itself. It also involves educating people about horses and how incredible these animals are, including the innate connection or parallels between horses and autistic people, for which we have coined a term: Hautism.
Tragically, many autistic adults who are part of the “Lost Generation” feel a sense of abandonment and unwantedness, much of which is attributable to no diagnosis (or late diagnosis) and having experienced years of rejection, not fitting in, and being mislabeled and misunderstood. We find a kinship in horses who have also been set aside, unwanted, and abandoned.
Unlike many other horse rescues, any horse who is “rescued” to come and live with us at Wilderwood will not be trained for rehoming or selling. Due to our size limitations, we can only feasibly care for five horses at a time. When one passes on, we will likely replace that horse with one more.
When that time comes to add another horse to Wilderwood’s stable, in keeping with our mission we often look for those horses who are unwanted, rejected, and need the love and stability of a place of peace and healing. This is the component of our “rescue” for horses. One at a time, when we are able — and on the absolute condition that such a rescue horse will live out his or her days, however long or short that may be, here with us: loved, wanted, cared for, cherished, usefully contributing, and being an integral part of all we do.
The word “rescue,” to us, evokes the concept of keeping from being lost or abandoned, and is imbued with love, care, compassion, healing, spirit, and joy.
One at a time, whether human or horse, and in our own small ways in this enormous world and universe, we strive to make a difference and believe that this is something of which every one of us is capable, should we choose to do so.
Tragically, at 2:12 p.m. on May 22, 2020 our darling boy Saeed left us. He fought heroically for five days. His indomitable spirit did not let him down, nor did the overwhelming love that we have for this horse let him down, nor the veterinary care he received and the numerous outcalls and treatments and medications and IV fluids.
What failed Saeed in the end was his age and his kidneys.
Even to the end this horse strived to show us how much he loved us and loved being here as part of our lives. With his blood pressure falling, kidneys failing, having lost at least 100 pounds, not having eaten for five days and barely drinking water, in his last few moments with us he playfully picked up a stick and looked back at us as if to say “I love you.”
Even the specter of dying could not crush this beautiful soul.
Saeed, your spirit is here with us. We hear you in the wind through the cottonwoods; we feel you in the warmth of the breeze and the sunshine; we know you will be there in the cool calm of the mornings and the copper gold fire of the sunsets that shine brilliantly bright like the amazing gold hue of your coat. You are with us when the wind chimes blow, you are with us when we rattle the chicken scratch container, or lift the lid of the treat bin.
You are running in the back lands with your herd and we hear you, we feel you.
Wilderwood and our lives will not be the same without you, and yet you will be here with us in our hearts — always. Thank you for the blessing of your magnificent life and the difference you brought to the many lives that you touched … especially ours.
Desmond, at age 4, has now graduated. He is considered what is colloquially known as being “green broke”; that is, he is ready to start the next phase of his schooling — now under saddle. He chose some unique, Desmond-like ways to celebrate!
Excited to announce that Joy has arrived and is available! All proceeds from this memoir will be donated to Wilderwood Equine Therapy to help develop and deliver its programs for — and with — autistic adults.
Like everyone, we are doing our best to keep the joy at Wilderwood during the corona quarantine and stay-at-home time. We are working hard, continuing to prepare and ready Wilderwood for our Pilot participants (June) and first participant intake (later this year). The arena letters arrived this week! — and we were pretty impressed that they spelled “Becca” right out of the box.
It’s a case of step by step, little by little for Wilderwood. Though we have been somewhat sidelined with the (necessary) restrictions wrought by the Coronavirus — resulting in our Pilot and Volunteers program being shifted to a later date — we’ve nonetheless been hard at work, continuing the projects that need doing.
Recently completed, or well-on-the-way to being completed, are the new arena, the walkway to the roundyard, the viewing bench, and very much-needed sound/barrier fencing.
Our major Mud Project is now completed! Below are pictures showing our completed MUD project: Before, During, and After. This was a major undertaking to solve a perennial and major problem at Wilderwood — and we did it!
We have also completed our Tack Room project, with before and after pictures below to share with you, also.
So much work is being completed in preparation of our opening. We are excited and very thankful!
Autistic adults are disadvantaged in our community on multiple social, economic, and cultural fronts.
There is a general misunderstanding about autism in terms of it being perceived as an “invisible” disability. It’s often said that autistic people look “normal” or are told “you don’t look autistic” (whatever autistic is supposed to look like). This, of course, changes when autistic people are placed in high stress situations and experience a meltdown. If this occurs in public, autistic people are viewed very differently — and not “normal” at all. This can have a devastating social, psychological, and even economic impact.
For these reasons, and especially for those who are so-called “high functioning” (note that most autistic adults don’t care for this term), autistics often feel compelled to work hard masking their disability in public. The effort of masking in public, however, has a significant downside in terms of psychological and emotional cost, and many autistics suffer significant consequences in private.
There is also a misconception that autism is an issue of childhood only — as if autistic children magically never grow up! Further, there is the perception, sadly often championed by organizations claiming to support autistics, that it is a tragic and negative burden on society. There is some truth to the latter. The depression and suicide rate for autistics is at least double that of the general population, and autistic adults are also 83 percent more likely to be unemployed or under-employed. As a result of all of this, many autistic people feel detached and alienated from their communities.
Autistic people, however, can and do flourish — enjoying their lives and actively contributing to their communities. It takes understanding, education, leadership, and advocacy to change negative perceptions, both from the general population and autistic adults themselves, to help achieve this. Given the right supports, autistic people can flourish in a neurotypical society to enhance not only their own lives, but the lives of others around them.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! — to our WONDERFUL volunteers at Wilderwood’s recent Volunteer Day to Build the Raised Gardens! By name, we’d especially like to thank Jayme, Joe, and Lee Anne.
Thank you also to RockIt Stonescapes in Peralta for much appreciated discount and help with the gravel and your expert delivery! Thanks for your continued support of Wilderwood and belief in our mission.
Thank you, too, for those who signed up as interested, but were unable to come on the day. We didn’t quite get finished what we’d planned, so may be having another day soon to finish off. We’re getting so close now to opening for the pilot it’s very exciting! … but there are still some things to be done.
The Raised Gardens are an important part of Wilderwood’s curriculum, particularly the Preceptorship. We’re so excited to see another vision and dream become a reality!
For now, here’s to another successful Volunteer Day and our heartfelt thanks to our amazing volunteers. Here are some pictures to show the “Before” and “After” of the Raised Gardens.