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Hickory Hill Farm - Mt Juliet, TN

Rescued Horses Help Children to Read With Confidence

Learning to read can be a challenge for some children.  The Hickory Hill Farm offers a unique solution that helps both the student and horses in needed.  To understand how this “Reading with Rescues” program works, you first need to learn about a horse named Gummi…

Rescue co-founders Jenna Gibbons and Shea Hutsenpiller talked to us about the history of Hickory Hill Farm.  Jenna said, “We came together with the desire to help BOTH animals and people.  We sat and discussed our vision for the organization, and recognized our intention to do three specific things:  RESCUE (rescue and rehabilitate animals), PLAY (provide programs for children and adults on the farm with our rescues), and HEAL (provide therapeutic services with our rescues to those in need of healing).  The ongoing focus is that our rescues who stay with us (whether chosen to stay with us or while waiting to be adopted) will have a purpose - to give back to the community.”

She explained that the rescue is entirely volunteer run and relies on Social Media to rehome horses saved from dangerous situations.  One particular mare named Gummi holds a special place in their hearts. 

“One of our favorite stories to share is the story of Gummi, our 29 year old sanctuary (permanent resident) horse. Her story really illustrates what we mean by giving the horses a purpose and a way to give back in their own way. Gummi's owner of 24 years was diagnosed with a terminal illness. When this happened she sent Gummi to live with a friend who was to take care of her- long story short, when we were contacted by Animal Control and Gummi's owner to assist Gummi, she was in terrible shape.

“Our vet scored her at a BCS of 2 and prepared us for an unhappy ending. In fact, we were terrified to transport her as we didn't know if she would survive the trip. But, she couldn't stay where she was, so we did what we knew we had to.

“Gummi survived the trip to our farm, but was in a dreadful state. Our vet pulled blood for blood work and we decided on a refeeding protocol, and again, he prepared us for the worse. In his words, we were providing this mare with love and hospice care in what we believed would be her final days. After all- she was 29, frail, all of her unhealthy hair was falling out exposing nasty skin riddled with fungus, she was missing teeth, and very lethargic. When Gummi's bloodwork returned, our vet described it as one of the worst he had seen.

“Her glucose levels did not even register on the lab instruments, the other levels indicated internal infection or cancer, and also that she was severely dehydrated. First we treated for the internal infection. Then, slowly but surely and to all of our surprise, Gummi began healing. She went from a handful of soup consistency feed slowly to one scoop. Gummi was NOT going to lay down and die. She started meeting volunteers at the fence for her soup meals and a little bit of life returned to her eyes.”  Over time, the rescue staff was able to nurse Gummi back to full health.  She is now a permanent resident of the Hickory Hill Farm. 

They also learned that Gummi had a particular fondness for children!  She lights up whenever they are around!  They began the “Reading with Rescues” program in June 2016.  Today, Gummi is one of the therapy horses that teams up with a tutoring specialist to help kids overcome their fears of reading aloud. 

Gummi gives each child her undivided attention while they learn to read with confidence.  It is truly beautiful to see!

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To learn more about the Hickory Hill Farm, visit their website at hickoryhillfarmtn.org.


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