Narrow Gate Horse Ranch is chomping at the bit to get started on new pasture.
Earlier this year, the land the four-year-old nonprofit sits on was put up for sale, forcing Susan Zody, founder of the nonprofit that provides free equine-assisted learning to at-risk youth, to either pony up the $1.7 million to purchase the property or to find another place to move. Now, that other place has been found.
“It just kind of came up, and it’s perfect. It’s way smaller, but that’s something that's manageable for us,” said Zody. “It doesn’t have a fence and barns and all that, but if we have to do it outside with just a roof over our heads, then that’s what we’ll do until we can build the other structures.”
Finding the property was a relief to Zody. When she started Narrow Gate Horse Ranch, Dr. Michelle Haendiges offered her land and horses to Zody for her to use to start the program with the caveat that she eventually wanted to sell. When the decision to sell was made earlier this year, Zody hoped to find land in Kokomo to move to but knew options were limited.
Now, she’s happy to have her eyes on new land. The property is 20 acres inside Kokomo and offers privacy, said Zody, which makes it an ideal location. And with a $195,000 price tag, Zody said it’s much more realistic than trying to purchase the land on which the nonprofit has been operating for the past four years.
While it doesn’t have structures on it, Haendiges is donating eight of her horses to Narrow Gate Horse Ranch, which means Zody won’t have to start entirely from scratch.
A capital campaign currently is underway to raise funds to go toward the purchase of the land, and a $50,000 matching grant is being offered through the end of the year, thanks to Kokomo residents John and Patty O’Donnell. For every amount donated, it will be doubled up to that amount.
“If we can get this match it will pay for more than half of the property, and we would have enough money to buy the property,” Zody said. “This is the big push now for this match.”
Purchasing the land will make the nonprofit much more stable, and that’s something Zody finds important. Over the past four year, she’s witnessed the program get through to at-risk youth who might have otherwise fallen through the cracks, she said.
And all the credit goes to the horses.
“We’ve got a lot of good nonprofits (in town), but we can attract older youth. And I mean kids that don’t go to anything else because it’s the kids that nobody else wants because they’re in Kinsey (Youth Center). They’re bad, but they will come to this horse ranch because of the horses and because of the style that we use,” said Zody.
Over the last four years, around 200 area youth have attended Narrow Gate Horse Ranch. Over 12 weeks, the participants earn their way to riding the horses by taking part in various activities, helping with chores, and learning how to care for the horses.
Zody said many of the youth come in “hardened.” As the weeks progress, they begin to open up, and the horses help facilitate that.
“They’re this big, magnificent animal that’s so gentle, but yet the horses reflect what the person is feeling. The equine specialists know these horses well enough that when this horse is doing something it typically doesn’t do, they’re like, ‘OK something is going on.’ And then they question the [youth who’s working with the horse]. They say, ‘I noticed Solider was standing there really still until you started talking about such and such. What happened then?’” Zody said. “It’s really bringing up stuff about themselves and teaching them how to deal with frustration and anger and pulling something out of them that they don’t want to disclose.”
Equine-assisted learning, she said, takes the pressure off of the youth as it’s not just them as the focus – it’s them and their horse.
In addition to donating to the capital campaign, the community also can support the nonprofit through the purchase of bacon pork burgers, which are being sold for $15 a box and can be purchased through Narrow Gate Horse Ranch board members and Zody.
Donations can be made online at narrowgatehorseranch.com, but Zody encouraged people to mail checks to 13205 S. 200 W., Kokomo, 46901, as 3 percent of online donations are withheld due to processing fees. To purchase bacon pork burgers, call Zody at 765-438-4962.