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Angel Heart Farm


2015/03/04



By Tracy Kujawa

Can a pony or horse help children with a life threatening illness?  Can a herd of horses help heal parents who have suffered a loss of a child to cancer?  At Angel Heart Farm (AHF) in Middle Tennessee, we say, yes, and imagine our equines with angel wings.

One could find numerous programs in the southeast that serve children with mental and physical challenges, but could find no equine assisted programs in the southeast for children and families facing chronic or life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, brain tumors, or cystic fibrosis, until 2001. So, Tracy Kujawa, a four-time cancer survivor, lifelong equestrian, and Arabian horse show competitor, created the Angel Heart program to serve these families after her second battle with cancer. She credits her Arabian mare with her recovery, and her oncologist pronounced that her horse was the best medicine he had ever seen.

Angel Heart Farm provides a place of respite for the kids “to be kids,” away from the medical facilities and to enjoy horses and nature. The farm also allows families to connect in a peaceful and caring environment at no cost.  The physicians and nurses who have worked with AHF have noticed positive changes in their patients’ attitudes, physical strength and a decrease in depression.  Medications, treatments, surgeries and constant doctor visits take a toll on these young warriors. The constant stress of a child with a chronic illness is hard on the entire family, both physically and financially. Childhood illnesses can cost families over $10,000 in out of pocket expenses.  So AHF serves these courageous families at no cost and helps in the recovery of their hearts, bodies and spirits.

To date, over 250 children and families have experienced equine assisted therapy through hands-on care, plus riding and competing in local and A-rated Arabian shows.  AHF operates year round, accepting referrals from medical and social work professionals, as well as other foundations that serve children with life threatening illnesses.  When a family visits the farm, it is their private time to bond, heal and have fun.  To see a child “forget” they are sick, and learn to ride and be a care giver instead of a recipient of care, in very powerful.  A child can share time with any horse or pony in the barn they select. AHF horses who make up the “Angel Crew” are Arabian show horses, and three Welsh show ponies, and a mini. One child said, “Rocky (an AHF pony) doesn't care that I have a brain tumor; he just wants me to love him!”
AHF offers two summer camps in conjunction with the regular lessons program: a princess pony camp and a cowboy camp. Each week long day camp is filled with riding, and the cowboys can learn how to calf rope from area ropers. The cowgirls make costumes for their favorite equine and participate in a costume parade for their families at the end of the camp session. 

At Angel Heart Farm it is not unusual to see a six-year-old riding his/her favorite pony next to his/her 75-year-old grandpa riding a horse for the first time.  If a child is too ill to visit the farm, we will bring their favorite pony to their home or to the hospital. AHF's  miniature horse Buddy visits local libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, the Hope Lodge (American Cancer Society), and the Ronald McDonald House spreading “Buddy Cheer.”  Families can continue to visit the farm after their child’s treatment is complete, and families are always welcome after a loss of a child. 

AHF is hosting a Cowboy Up for a Cause horsey consignment event in Franklin, Tennessee, March 19 -22, 2015.  Please visit our web site at www.angelheartfarm.netor the Cowboy Up for a Cause Horsey Consignment Sale Facebook page.  For more information contact Executive Director Tracy Kujawa at: angelheartfarm@gmail.com or Pat Dunn at 615-591-7959. 

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