SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Rescued farm animals at a non-profit organization in Madison County are in need of donations. The Haven at Skanda, is a animal sanctuary for endangered breeds like horses, pigs and mini donkeys and also connects Syracuse youth to animals.
Executive Director of The Haven at Skanda, Ellen Beckerman said, “One thing that we saw that was incredible when we first started Skanda was animals who have healed from severe abuse and neglect, from trauma, can support kids who are healing from abuse and trauma in a amazing way.”
According to the non-profit website, Skanda came to fruition in 2013, when owner Marion Secor received a phone call from the CNY SPCA to see if she would take 14, wild ponies that were starving and abandoned in a snowy field.
“The kids learn practical things, but they are also learning deep things,” Beckerman said. “Practically, they are learning how to feed animals, how to groom them, how to be with them and be respectful of the animals’ personal space, how to request respect for their own personal space…We teach them mindfulness, we teach them peaceful conflict resolution.”
Beckerman collaborates with Julia Jones, founder of Cuse Quines, a program that gives inner-city youth access to Skanda’s farm animals, without them having the burden of travel, in order to interact with them.
“Most of the kids we work with are coming from very, very, intensely stressful situations,” Beckerman said. “So, they don’t have a lot of adults around them, settling differences peacefully; they’ve been exposed to a lot of violence, they’ve experienced profound loss…When they come face to face with an animal, who embraces them for exactly who they are and has no expectations for them to be any different than who they are, and whose face lights up when the kid gets off the bus or gets out of the car to come here and the animal comes running towards them, that’s the kind of love and acceptance that these kids are not experiencing elsewhere in their lives.”
Jones fostered the idea to bring Beckerman’s farm animals to the city after getting inspiration from the Netflix movie, Concrete Cowboy–a story of a troubled teen, who is torn between a life of crime in Pa. and his estranged father’s cowboy lifestyle.
“I came out and asked Skanda because they have amazing horses,” Jones said.
Bella, a Norwegian Fjord, is one of the horses that travels to the city to socialize with youth.
“The kids in the city got to get to know her, groom her, touch her and just be able to relax and re-set their whole mind because our city, you know, is tough,” Jones said.
What started as a summer pop up program for youth primarily between the ages of six and 12, is now turning into plans for a horse stable in Syracuse.
“Now we’re in the process of trying to become non-profit,” Jones said. “Cuse Quines is because our ultimate goal is to have an urban, horse stable the city so that the kids can not have to drive to the country.”
Together, Jones and Beckerman are always accepting monetary and food donations for the horses, especially in preparation for the cold, Winter season.
“Most horses will eat one to two flakes, which if you think of like a whole bale of hay, a flake is like a slice,” Beckerman said. “They’ll eat one to two per meal and we give them three to four meals a day.”
During the Winter, Beckerman said all of the farm animals need more food because they are not foraging, naturally.
“You can see here now the horses in the field are eating grass and that takes care of some of their nutritional needs, but in the Winter, all of that goes away,” Beckerman said. And that’s “not just for the horses, but for the goats, the mini donkeys, the chickens, the ducks, no one is foraging.”
In addition to food costs increasing in the Winter, hoof care is also a regular necessity.
“Their hooves get picked out because if mud or dirt gets in there, that can be really bad for them,” Beckerman said.”They have farrier service every eight weeks so someone comes and trims their hooves and they get polished and then they get the burdock taken out of their hair.”
Volunteers interested in donating to the horses or any of the other farm animals in need of support, are encouraged to visit thehavenatskanda.org.