On Therapy and Rescue

Wilderwood Equine Therapy and Rescue.

There’s a lot to that name. And, we’d like to take a moment to unpack it.

Wilderwood (waɪldərwʊd) comes from the name of our location, on Wildwood Lane. It is, therefore, pronounced wild-er-wood (not will-der-wood) as in a “wood that is wilder,” moreso than just ordinarily wild. It’s a play on words that captures not only a lighter side of us, one that enjoys word play and linguistic variance, but also reflects the deep love we have for this peaceful sanctuary we call our home.

Then there is the concept of Therapy and Rescue. What sort of therapy do we do? And what do we rescue? Of course, the word “equine” is prominent and our work naturally involves the magnificent horse. And yes, we do rescue horses – or, at least at this writing, one horse. Odie’s rescue story is outlined in other places, so we won’t repeat it here. What we will say is that whatever horse comes to Wilderwood is with us for life, and so our turnover is not very high.

We also see the word “rescue” as applying to people, too. All of us, no matter who we are, at some point in our lives will need some kind of help. For the very fortunate among us, this help may end after the helplessness of infancy. For many, the need for support is intermittent and fleeting, and yet for others it may last throughout a lifetime.

The precise support each of us needs depends on life events, circumstance, our personal history, physical and mental aptitude, ideals, beliefs, and hopes.  Because of this, we believe that the best and most potent predictor of successful therapy is the degree of connection between the recipient’s needs and what a particular therapist can provide.

The needs of those who seek therapy is a mosaic – though it could also be seen as a frenetic maelstrom – that has been cultivated by and culminates in lived experiences tempered by individual personality and different (dis)abilities.  Who is best to help with those needs? Who has the credentials, licensure, and qualifications? Perhaps the question is better posed to the recipient of the therapy who, faced with an array of choices, can weigh his or her needs with an educated understanding of what is being offered.

That brings us to the concept of “therapy.” This word is mired in a lot of ideological and cognitive weight. Put another way, there’s a lot of talk about “therapy” and who, what, and how is credentialed, licensed, qualified, or honored to provide it. In relation to equine therapy, there are those who claim it properly resides in the world of occupational, speech/language, or physical therapists, along with equine specialists, therapists, or teachers, medical practitioners such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and osteopaths, and other medical or mental health providers such as social workers, counselors, and clinicians.

We would say there’s a group that’s often left out of this list, and that is the horses themselves.

The truth is, it belongs to all of us. Those who perform therapy and enact a positive change in the recipient of that therapy, is by nature providing therapeutic benefit. The question becomes one of a person finding the best possible therapeutic environment for what he or she needs.

At Wilderwood, we have chosen to develop our therapeutic practices to best meet the needs of autistic adults and the horses we love. The qualifications of those who have developed the curriculum is grounded in multi-disciplinary theory and practice, including the fields of cognitive linguistics (itself a multi-disciplinary field blending psychology, philosophy, and linguistics); osteopathic medicine (particularly the biopsychosocial component of osteopathy); education (both andragogy and pedagogy); equine training and riding; psychology; philosophy; and – critically – autistic adults themselves.

Like any therapeutic intervention, our program is not for everyone. Despite our multi-disciplinary approach and the fact that Wilderwood is potentially open to anyone who wishes to apply, the recipient we have in mind is quite specific and focused: the two-thirds of autistic adults without intellectual disability who have been unheard and unassisted for years. This is their time and their place. The blending of philosophies of mind and body, along with the combined years of experience with teaching, medical, and equine practice has resulted in a program uniquely cast to offer therapy and rescue to those who wish to seek it from us.

Rebecca Evanko, B.A., M.A., Ph.D
Mark Evanko, B.Sc., D.O

For those who are interested in the theory behind the development of Wilderwood’s program, here is a list of some of the theorists and practitioners who have informed our work.

Tony AttwoodMichel FoucaultMichael Polanyi
Mikhail BakhtinPaulo FreireDiane Ravitch
Trudy BantaSigmund FreudMonty Roberts
Roland BarthesHenry GirouxEdward Said
Stephen BrookfieldEdmund HusserlRoger Simon
Noam ChomskyRoss JacobsEdward Soja
Catherine CromptonCarl JungA.T. Still
Jacques DerridaTania MarshallLev Vygotsky
John DeweyJean PiagetSharon Wilsie

The Piloteers

The Piloteers

We have just finished an amazing Pilot program with wonderful participants! Lots of useful and practical input and the incredibly valuable opportunity to “test run” many of the curriculum’s activities by and for the people who will be completing the program.

For three hours each week over six weeks, our participants attended every session and gave the curriculum a rigorous going-through with enthusiasm, grace, and commitment.

The horses also enjoyed meeting their new friends!

We are now starting the task of textbook and program revisions based on this input and then moving into the next exciting stage: recruiting participants and volunteers for 2021 and starting the program!

Watch this space! — and a HUGE thank you to our Piloteers 2020. We love you all and are very thankful to you!

Step by Step

step by step

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. 

Raised Gardens Volunteer Day!

Raised Gardens Volunteer Day!

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.

Before and After images of the Raised Gardens

Getting Ready …

Getting Ready …

We’ve been busy at Wilderwood getting ready! Our next Volunteer Day is Saturday, November 2 on a “drop-in” basis. We’ll be working from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on building the Raised Gardens! We’ll also ask our amazing volunteers to help us with the last remnants of clean up (moving branches to the bonfire, hauling building materials to the truck).

Below are pictures of things we’ve been doing in the last month. The solar lights on the Wilderwood sign look amazing at night! The utility area (now chained/cordoned off) is a safe place to put needed tools and equipment to maintain the Wilderwood grounds. And, take a look at the video showing the horses checking out the new Round Yard. Desmond, of course, steals the show!

In other exciting news, we’ve been preparing our sign-up and informational materials for the upcoming Wilderwood Therapy Curriculum Pilot Program! This program is to help us test the curriculum as a “trial run” before we open officially in September 2020. There will be no fees involved for participants and the information and feedback we receive will be crucial to help make sure the curriculum is sound and ready to go!

Interested in the Pilot Program? Check out our Application Form on the homepage. Once we’ve received the form, we will contact you to discuss the program, your goals, and the ways in which Wilderwood may be able to help you.

The horses check out their new round yard. Desmond, of course, steals the show!

Desmond, The Baby, and Sand!

Desmond, The Baby, and Sand!

Excited! Took delivery of our Industrial Bin (rental) for our upcoming Volunteer Clean-Up Days and had the round-yard sand delivered.

Desmond and The Baby (Viv) immediately set to work “helping” to spread the sand for us.

Desmond and The Baby help prepare for Volunteer Day!

Visit

Visit to Colorado State and Temple Grandin Equine Center

This month, we were very fortunate to receive a lovely invitation from the Temple Grandin Equine Center (TGEC) at Colorado State University. As an autistic person, this was a special place for Bec to visit as well as an opportunity to meet the splendid people and amazing equines there who are working with innovation, drive, and passion to make the TGEC happen.

TGEC/CSU is a very special place, too, for Bec and Mark because, believing in and supporting the mission and goals of TGEC, they have chosen it to be the recipient of their entire Estate. This generous gift will assist TGEC/CSU develop its future programs and facilities to ensure continuation of innovative equine activities and therapies.

We look forward to future visits along with collaboration and sharing opportunities!

Image courtesy Temple Grandin Equine Center/Facebook