Healing with horses at Wild Hearts in Seneca
SENECA, S.C. – Wild Hearts Equestrian Therapy Center, located on Hoppin’ Horse Farm in Seneca, South Carolina, is dedicated to helping people of all ages with emotional, intellectual and physical challenges.
“You name it, and we work with it,” founder Jessica Fry said. “We are here to help you.”
Fry said starting the non-profit organization was always a dream of hers.
“I have been working with horses since I was 11,” she explained. “When I was 15, I read a book called ‘A Leg Up for Lucinda.’ It was about a young lady who had polio, and she found a way that helped her walk but she was on horseback. And that really resonated with me. So, as a 15-year-old, I said, ‘I would really like to do this one day.’ Then, when I was 32, the universe worked in all of its mysterious ways and sent this awesome woman, Janine Hartley, to me. She’s my business partner and really, really good friend. She used to do startups in Colorado, and I said, ‘I would really like to start an equine therapy center’ and she said, ‘yeah, I’ve always wanted to do that too.'”
Fry and Hartley started the organization in 2015.
“We have 100+ clients a week, and that is constantly growing. Every Monday, we do two to three more consults. I’m not really a person who thinks in limits, so I don’t know what our limit is at this point,” Fry said. “We have eight facilitators, so we are still able to take on clients. Our facilitators are all trained in TBRI and PATH and Epona, and they’re amazing. I cannot say enough great things about our facilitators.”
With 44 horses (and several other animals on the farm), the therapy center can help clients to:
- Improve emotional and physical strength
- Heal from post-traumatic stress disorder
- Manage special needs
- Gain confidence and assertiveness
- Improve communication and relationship skills
- Become better leaders
- Build effective and more collaborative teams
- Become more self-aware
“All of our horses have their own personalities and their own opinions, and we want it that way so that they work with different clientele in the way that those clients need,” Fry said. “Each client needs something different. And, that horse, we want it to be able to connect and provide that.”
(Image credit: Wild Hearts)
Wild Hearts offers a variety of programs for local students, at-risk youth, active-duty military and veterans, senior citizens, people with disabilities, corporate team-building, women’s empowerment, and much more.
“If you feel like you could benefit, we are here to help. We only charge $40 a session and we will never raise our prices, ever.” Fry explained. “The way you get in is you call us and say ‘I really need help.'”
“We have 100 clients a week; 30% of them are on scholarship,” Fry explained. “Those scholarships are provided by our community. Seneca has been the most phenomenal community for us to start this in because we have had so much support for scholarships for our clients.”
(Image credit: Wild Hearts)
We asked Jessica to share one of Wild Hearts’ success stories with us.
“We do work with some victims from the Townville Elementary School shooting, and we have had some phenomenal success with a young lady. And I’m going to try not to cry when I talk about this,” Fry said. “When she came to us, she was a kindergartener. She saw the whole thing, and it manifested in her in physical ways, with stomach aches and headaches. She couldn’t go out in public anymore, she couldn’t hang out with her brothers, she couldn’t go to basketball games. There were a lot of things she could no longer do. She started working here and within about a year as a client, she was no longer wearing all black, the nervous cough had gone away. After a few years, she became secretary of her student council. She was flying across the nation to visit her aunt. Now she helps us train our new therapy horses.”
(On the left, the donkeys were curious about our camera! In the middle, Jamarcus is meeting Scoutie. To the right, Jessica is with Pope.)
Fry said the farm has roughly 60 volunteers every week, but the organization is always in need of more volunteers.
“We have the most amazing volunteers in the world. I will fully stand behind that,” she said. “We’re incredibly lucky to have the volunteers that we have. We don’t have a problem with volunteer retention. Once they come here, it seems like they never leave. We have about 60+ volunteers a week that come regularly. … Our volunteer trainings are six weeks long. They’re every Tuesday for two hours, and we teach you about the horse’s brain, about some nutrition in the horse, about how we handle our horses so that they feel safe.”
If horses are not for you, there are odd jobs, such as mowing, that volunteers can do. Along with volunteers, Fry said donations are always needed.
“We charge $40. It takes $105 to run each session, so we are already subsidizing $65. I’m also not one to really think about the money portion of it, which is a good and a bad thing,” Fry said with a laugh. “If you want to donate, there’s a ‘give now’ button [on wildheartsequinetherapy.org]. We just received this incredible thoroughbred, Pope, and we’re still collecting funds for him so that he can live here for the rest of his life. He’s 10, he’s probably got 25 more years left.”