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Horse rescue farm sinking deep roots in Newberg


Nonprofit Helping Hands Horse Rescue and Equine Therapy hopes hosting a Farm Day Aug. 23 will be an introduction to the community

As someone who feels she’s been healed by horses herself, Rose Sullivan jumped at the chance to get involved when she first learned about equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) four years ago.

Sullivan was in Southern California at the time, but moved her nonprofit animal rescue and equine therapy farm to 17250 N.E. Lewis Rogers Lane just outside of Newberg in March 2013 to accommodate her growing operation.Photo Credit: SETH GORDON - Equine therapy -- Rose and Katie Sullivan formed Helping Hands Horse Rescue and Equine Therapy in March 2013 on land outside of Newberg.

Helping Hands Horse Rescue and Equine Therapy has been working with a local therapist and clients, but wanted to introduce itself to the community, which is why Sullivan is hosting a free Farm Day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 23.

“We want to spread the word that we’re here and that we’re here to serve the Newberg community,” Sullivan said.

There is no set schedule for the event, but visitors can interact with the farm’s therapy horses and small animals, including the chance to groom the farm’s latest rescue animal, a miniature horse named Susie.

Sullivan, who serves as the equine specialist in therapy sessions, and Beaverton psychologist Sabrina Walters will be available to explain how EAP works and share how they would like to serve the community.

EAP is a form of experiential therapy that can be used for a wide range of conditions, from PTSD and depression to eating disorders and addiction.

Basically, EAP involves the same process as talk therapy, but it is done while interacting with a therapy horse, usually in the farm’s small indoor arena. It does not involve riding the horses, which is the biggest misconception, but interacting with the horses facilitates the psychotherapy process.

This is in part because they are able to mirror the emotions of the client. Sullivan participates as the equine specialist, helping to interpret the behavior of the horse for the therapist.

“It is a natural process,” said Katie Sullivan, Rose’s daughter. “Anybody that works with horses knows they reflect what you’re feeling. If you’re anxious, they will be anxious, but it goes beyond that. If you’re angry, they can really show anger.”

The horses are extremely intuitive and Sullivan points to a recent instance when a young boy with autism went into the field with seven of the farm’s largest mares.

“All the big mares were interacting with this tiny little boy and he was touching them,” Rose Sullivan said. “It was amazing. They were very still around him because they knew he was small and fragile. Things like that happen all the time.”

Both Sullivan and Walters have been certified in EAP by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), the leading international nonprofit association for the therapy.

“The therapist we work with has told me that one hour in the arena, it takes her four to five sessions on the couch,” Rose Sullivan said. “That’s how much it helps people open up.”

Sullivan trains her horses and animals for therapy, or “imprints” them, which basically boils down to caring for them in a direct way that makes the animals sociable around people.

Helping people, in turn, feel comfortable around animals, especially large ones like horses, is another function of Helping Hands. That the farm rescues animals who then help heal people brings a sense of harmony to the whole operation.

The farm is always open to volunteers to work on the farm and interact with the animals, which can be therapeutic on its own, but Sullivan has also set up a bed and breakfast on the property, from which all the proceeds go to the nonprofit.

Helping Hands is also hoping to partner with a couple more therapists because it has the space and animals to accommodate many more clients and sessions.

For more information, email Sullivan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..