The first of my Pet Game Changers this week is Pat Beauvais, founder of the Heart and Soul Equine Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization created to provide a safe haven and home for retired, rescued and rehabbed horses.
“The game changer is actually the horses,” says Pat. “They are the ones doing amazing work.”
A Passion for Horses
Pat is a single mom who raised three kids by herself and volunteered with many children’s programs and organizations. She also served in an alderman capacity for 16 years for the city she lives in and is currently a field operations advisor for a large hospital in her area.
“Horses have always been my passion,” Pat explains. “I’ve always loved animals. I’ve always been involved with rescues and adoptions and fostering dogs. Then in 2007, I rescued my first thoroughbred and I’ve adopted several since then.
In 2018, I established the Heart and Soul Equine Foundation, which gives horses a second chance in life helping children and adults with any type of therapy they may need. Horse-assisted therapy helps individuals both mentally and physically. Today, I’m very excited to announce a new mission we’re undertaking called The Buddy Program.
The Buddy Program is designed for people who, for example, have lost family members, or people who are lonely or just a tad depressed and want some companionship. Our horses can be the perfect choice for them, because they love attention.”
A Win-Win for Both Horses and Humans
Among the many people who visit the Heart & Soul horse farm are cancer patients.
“I had one patient who came in a wheelchair,” says Pat. “He had been given five months to live, was quite depressed and had pretty much decided he didn’t want to do anything with his remaining days. He sat in his chair, head down, arms crossed.
My horse, Tinker, walked up to the chair and tried to nudge the man into petting him, but he didn’t want anything to do with the horse. I said to him, ‘Tinker’s not going to go away until you at least acknowledge his presence.’
So, the man petted him just a bit, at which point Tinker put his big head right in the man’s lap and remained still. I encouraged the man to give Tinker a little hug, and he started to cry. He hugged the horse and said, ‘I forgot what it’s like to love.’
From that point on, the man began reengaging in life. He went back to therapy and started walking again on his own. He became motivated to enjoy his last days. He started eating and was able to cut his pain meds in half.”
Tinker, who Pat calls her “specialist,” is a retired racehorse who seems to instinctively know how to support and comfort people who are hurting. The horse has a second career that he loves, and according to Pat, he’s spoiled to death!
Pat and her team are able to provide a safe environment for their equine family and enjoy watching them interact with people and create positive therapeutic experiences. “It’s a win-win for the horses, and a win-win for people,” says Pat.
Some Horses Are Therapists, While Others Are Entertainers
I asked Pat how she finds horses in need of refuge. She explained that some are donated, others have been rescued from slaughterhouses, some are retired, and some have been injured and rehabilitated but can’t go back to their previous lives. This last group is a special source of inspiration for people with disabilities.
Currently, Pat has 32 horses in the program. Their temperaments and abilities vary, so they’re used accordingly. There’s Katie, the “security officer,” who isn’t really friendly with people, but she keeps track of who enters and exits the farm and Pat says she’s quite entertaining, from a distance! Some of the horses are a bit skittish but have lively personalities.
So, for example, when one member of a family is having a therapy session with a horse, the rest of the family can be entertained by horses splashing through puddles or trying to eat the hose and other silly stuff. I asked Pat what she loves most about the work she does.
“I would like the world to see and appreciate these gentle giants for their free spirits, peacefulness and serenity, and to experience the ‘horse magic’ they can offer children and adults,” Pat answered. “I would like to leave you with one closing thought. A horse that is in your heart becomes part of your soul. If you have love in your heart, you will have love in your soul.”
How to Learn More About the Heart & Soul Equine Foundation
If you’d like to learn more about Pat and her wonderful horses, you can visit the Heart & Soul Equine Foundation website, which will be updated to reflect some of the projects underway, such as a move to a new town and a new facility currently under construction.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Pat has lost many of her financial sponsors. Visitors to the farm aren’t charged for time with the horses or any therapy they receive. If you believe in the Heart & Soul Equine Foundation’s mission and are in a position to make a donation, you can do so here.