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Animals as Natural Therapy

721 Van Wyck Rd
Bellingham WA 98226
360-671-3509


Tax ID/EIN: 91-1939165
Year Founded: 1999
Last Updated 2017-05-01

Public Charity

Equine Welfare Network Guardian
We are proud to be a *2017 Guardian and share our horse care & use practices with the public.

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Primary Focus involving horses (Horse Welfare, Public Service, Sport & Recreation):  Public Service

Our organization operates programs involved with providing equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) using certified instructors for individuals with special needs.

Our organization is directly responsible for the care and shelter of horses.

90% of our total programs and services are horse-related.

Our organization conducts its horse-related programs at one facility.

Our organization operates programs involved with horses and other animals.


Our Mission/How we are involved with horses:
The mission of Animals as Natural Therapy(ANT)is to strengthen our community by developing healthy, resilient individuals through animal-assisted education and personal growth, with special attention to at-risk youth.

Horse-related programs:
Our Equine Assisted Experiential Growth and Learning (EAGAL) programming utilizes horses and directly serves over 400 youth per year, 90% of whom are low income. ANT offers ten-week weekly sessions in the fall, winter, and spring, as well as six separate week-long summer day camps. Some children, youth, and veterans also meet with our mental health counselors individually or with their families throughout the year. <br />Many of the youth ANT serves, due to their limited resources, will not have access to or seek traditional counseling on their own. This means that ANT's Animal-Assisted Experiential Learning programs (which primarily involve a mental health counselor) are often the only mental health support these youth will ever receive or accept. ANT has a growing waiting list of vulnerable children, teens, and veterans that are desperately in need of ANT's services but are unable to pay for them. A number of these individuals are being raised by grandparents, extended family, foster or adoptive parents due to parental instability, addiction, and incarceration. ANT's highly effective and innovative programs are a way to ensure these young people are provided a place where they develop inner strength, self-confidence, healthy relationship skills and tools they need for the extra life challenges they face. These youth need hope and a new way of doing life to break family cycles.<br />At the farm, young people practice honest, respectful methods of communication and challenge themselves in multiple ways. They learn to face their fears. This empowers them to make healthy choices. To affect such life-altering changes, ANT works in tandem with horses. These sensitive, thousand pound animals are great mirrors for reflecting human emotions. They demand healthy boundaries, clear communication, and trust in order for people to build successful relationships with them. Horses teach essential life skills, in a fun and lasting way, that are inaccessible by way of traditional methods. <br />ANT utilizes innovative activities and group processing to develop powerful metaphors and life parallels. Through this work, the young people gain self-confidence and self-worth. They develop leadership, communication, problem solving, and teamwork skills. In a safe and supportive environment they can push the envelope of their fears and learn ways to overcome those fears. They learn to set boundaries, to feel, to identify and communicate their needs, and to express their appreciation of others. <br /><br />The SAFETY NET PROGRAM specifically serves youth and teens identified as behaviorally and emotionally challenged and in need of support for their particular challenges. These youths are referred by collaborating local and tribal schools, community organizations, professionals, and families. This program is ANT's main project and includes year-round weekly sessions for groups or individuals, summer camps, and also family sessions.<br /><br />ANT's programming is set up to provide unique challenges and the horses play an integral part. Horses have a way of letting us know which of our strategies are effective and which are not. They give us a chance to try out new skills without any judgment, only direct, honest feedback. Creating a healthy relationship with an animal can guide us to more successful relationships at home, school, and in the community.<br /><br />ANT strives to help young people develop lifelong skills that will help them to live self-sufficient, fulfilled lives. ANT has constructed a plan to track the success of this program. Variables include increased confidence, GPA improvement, less incidences requiring disciplinary action, positive peer interaction, and the ability to set boundaries. This tracking will be long term and the data will hopefully be mutually beneficial to ANT's efforts and the efforts of all the partners who support the idea of providing a "Safety Net" to catch any young person before they fall.<br /><br />The LEARNING LIFE PROGRAM serves youth through a variety of school partnerships ranging from a tribal preschool to weekly high school groups. Last year, 128 students had the opportunity to come to Windy Acres Farm to learn from animals, caring people, and the natural world. Here, the learning is truly 'hands-on' and experiential--learning how to convince a 1100 pound horse to move away from the grass, working with classmates to move horses through an obstacle without touching them, or noticing how calming it is to just be outside holding a soft bunny in their arms. <br /><br />Animals as Natural Therapy partners with 5 school districts and 2 tribal schools to provide our Learning Life programs, which include: <br />• Eighth graders taking small animals to visit elders in residential care facilities for their service learning projects. <br />• Preschoolers from the Lummi Head Start program coming to learn about treating animals and humans with kindness.<br />• High school students attending 4 weekly workshops on managing anxiety in everyday life.<br />• School counselors referring struggling students for sessions. While they may get the message that they are 'not okay' in the classroom, youth can rediscover their worth on the farm. <br />• Teachers coming for "Teach the Teacher" events and other specialized trainings.<br />• Teens facing academic, social, and behavioral challenges in and out of the classroom. The BRIDGES program for “troubled and troubling” high school students in Bellingham School District comes weekly during the school year. Many outwardly 'tough' teenagers join the Thursday outings so they can come for what they call "Fuzz Therapy” and then experience greater success at school and at home. <br />• Groups of middle school students come for two days of Leadership and Bullying Awareness Workshops. With staff, fellow students, and the horses, they develop a deeper awareness of self and others, boundaries, what positive leadership can look and feel like, and how to speak up for themselves and others. <br /><br />MOBILE ANT brings the joy of connecting with animals to elder care facilities, homeless shelters, and stressed university students. In this inter-generational program, youth from schools and rehab programs bring bunnies, chickens, dogs and mini horses to visit elders. Teens and elders connect and find value in themselves and one another. These interactions invite youth to develop empathy, practice respectful communication with older people and patience with animals. This program builds community between over 100 youth and hundreds of elder community members each year. <br /><br />The EAGLE PROJECT assists veterans returning from military efforts to face the challenges of depression, PTSD, addictions, and anger. Veterans may meet work in groups, individually or with family members. Using equine-assisted activities, ANT provides a means to release troubling emotions and increase coping skills, something especially useful for those who have experienced psychological and physical trauma. This program specifically focuses on helping veterans develop the tools to manage:<br /> <br />• Reintegration- Transition back to civilian life is challenging. Equine-assisted learning methods help one move from a sense of isolation to a sense of community.<br />• Crisis- Hopelessness is turned around by the companionship and understanding shared by the horse and humans at ANT.<br />• Addictions- A horse’s strong intuition and acceptance of our full range of feelings has helped many individuals overcome addictive tendencies.<br />• PTSD and/or Depression- Horses are fight or flight animals who have learned to deal with their own anxieties and who invite humans to develop strategies to address theirs. <br /> <br /><br /><br />RECORD OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS<br />Reports from both teachers and parents indicate that students attending ANT programs have learned to manage their behaviors, resulting in improved academic success. Four months after a one-week intensive camp, 70% of parents reported that their children’s grades had improved, attributing this to what their children learned at ANT. The Leadership/ Bully Awareness program participant survey shows an increased awareness of how their behaviors affect others and an ability to show empathy; and 78% report having intervened in bullying situations six months later. The following quarter, the public school reported that since their students attended ANT’s leadership and bullying awareness program not one student had been suspended from school.

Non-horse-related programs:
The other animals that participate in ANT programs are: rabbits, chickens, goats, a rooster, dogs, a turkey, a cat, and llamas.
The miniature horses as well as some of the smaller animals are involved in visits to the care facilities with Mobile ANT, and also out in the community: the nearby university at mid-terms, homeless shelters and local community events. Our smaller animals are often enjoyed by visitors of all ages to the farm and each has a special role to play.


Volunteer Opportunities


Feeder Assistant
Minimum Age: 16
The feeder assistant assists the feeder in cleaning horse areas, preparing hay bags and cleaning and filling watering troughs. This is 2-3 hour once or twice a week commitment in the early morning or late afternoon.

Youth Mentor
Minimum Age: 18
Mentoring youth as they prepare their horses for ground work or riding. A year long one day a week after school commitment; summer day camp mentoring is a more variable commitment. Three trainings are required.


Wish List Items


Crates Full QH Tree 17 Inch Western Saddle


*Guardians are organizations on the Equine Welfare Network that demonstrate a commitment to public transparency and accountability by their willingness to publish and share extensive data about their operations. The Guardian Designation is awarded annually.