“L’esprit had the fortunate opportunity to work with Sunnyside Farms this past summer. The equine program at Sunnyside offered our clients a chance to explore new settings, work with horses, and learn about themselves and how they interact with the world around them. Working with this organization assisted our clients in their progress towards accomplishing therapeutic goals including: increasing prosocial communication, understanding and developing healthy boundaries, and developing then consistently using adaptive coping skills.
Wendy Bauwens was a great facilitator and helped promote a calm and inviting atmosphere for our clients. Clients who do not normally participate in therapeutic summer activities would come on the days we went to Sunnyside, reporting that they looked forward to spending time with the horses.
Sunnyside’s staff did an excellent job drawing parallels between horse and human behaviors, needs and communication. Analyzing the horses behavior helped clients develop insight into their own needs, relationships and communication strategies. Wendy also used the horses as a tool for developing assertiveness and confidence, while regularly caring for the horses each week helped to teach empathy and responsibility.
Working together for the betterment of local youth was fulfilling for us at the organizational level, plus, our clients benefited from the well developed program Sunnyside offered. We are looking forward to being able to continue working with Sunnyside next year, in an effort to continue offering healthy and meaningful alternative programming to our clients.”
-Maria Mulvaugh; COO/Outpatient Therapist for L’esprit, Livingston, MT
“Working with Wendy and her beautiful Fjord Horses has been a great addition to my life. I am a licensed speech/language pathologist, Teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing; trained intervener for DeafBlind, and I attend weekly sessions with the Casey Clan.
Caleb Casey is a young boy (almost three years old) living with CHARGE Syndrome. Due to this syndrome, Caleb is considered DeafBlind (among other needs). He communicates via Sign Language and some verbalizations. He receives weekly occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. Prior to attending weekly sessions with Wendy (beginning in August 2019), Caleb would take a few steps independently and verbally laughed and approximated a few sounds. Now, he still uses his walker outdoors but at home or in known environments, Caleb will walk and dance independently. He uses a wider stance and wobbly gait but he LOVES his independence. In addition to his physical independence, Caleb has become more verbal. He looks at faces for specific mouth positions and does his best to verbally approximate sounds and words.
Caleb arrives at Sunnyside with his own entourage! He comes from a large family where is the seventh of eight children. Caleb is number seven in the clan. When their mother Elaine contacted Wendy, together they made this wonderful plan for the Caleb and his siblings. Wendy “created” the Caleb Program! As if she didn’t have enough work, Wendy opened her farm and heart in such a way that enabled all of us to benefit from her everyday magic. As we drive to and from the farm each week, the children express their delight and favorite part of the many activities on the farm. The older children thoroughly enjoy the daily chores (scooping poop, brushing the horses, feeding the rabbits, etc.) and the younger children enjoy seeing the wonderful menagerie who reside at Sunnyside Farms.
Both Elaine and I have noticed changes in not only Caleb but in all of the children. They are learning that “getting” something also means “giving” something. The clan “gets” to have fun; learn about and care for animals; and obtain an increased level of empathy and compassion for animals and each other. They “give” time and love to the animals; help to Wendy by doing farm chores; and share their individual energetic spirit as they move about the farm. When the time comes to depart from the farm, the children gather around Wendy to share ideas, feelings and get their “hug” before they leave for the day.
Thank you Wendy and Sunnyside Farms!!! You are truly magical!”
-Chris Siegle MST; CCC; SLP; MS; DHH, Bozeman, MT
“At the end of the summer of 2018, our family first heard about Sunnyside Farms when a neighbor of ours gave our oldest son, Colter, a one day horseback riding lesson for his birthday. Colter has some learning challenges and other gross and fine motor skill delays. Our other son, Jed, also participated in the one day lesson with Colter.
It was really amazing to watch how Wendy interacted with Colter to get him on a horse. She first asked him if he wanted to ride one of the horses. He said, “No!” She never said anything more about it as she helped him get more comfortable with the horses by letting him brush them and showing him how to clean their feet. When the time came to ride, Colter was anxious to get on. It was truly impressive to see!
This past spring, Wendy invited the boys to participate in her weekly horse camps. We were extremely thankful for the scholarship funds available to make this happen because otherwise we couldn’t have afforded to go.
All summer long, Colter and Jed participated twice a week in the horse camp. It was so exciting to watch our boys go from standing back and shy to being comfortable with brushing, feet cleaning, fly spraying and putting on the saddle pads. By the end of the summer, they were able to help the younger children by showing them how to groom the horses and by leading the horses while the younger children rode. This was a great confidence booster for both boys. They now look forward to participating in the Leader in Learning program.
Overall this was a fantastic summer of growth for both of our boys. They gained horse knowledge and became comfortable with them. They also gained confidence in working with others and helping them. They became much more outgoing and they made new friends!
Sunnyside Farm’s programs to help children with developmental needs as well as the siblings who live with and love them is a blessing. Our family is extremely thankful for all grants and sponsors who fund the scholarship program! It has meant so much to our family and we are so thankful for Sunnyside Farms!”
-Mike and Rachelle Kirsch, Wilsall, MT
“We are a family of 10! My husband and I have 4 boys and 4 girls. Our 7th kiddo, Caleb age 2½, was born with a genetic syndrome, CHARGE syndrome. He was life flighted 24 hours after he was born, to Seattle Children’s to have open heart surgery. He is deafblind, and amazing! He has bilateral hearing aids and is learning sign language, along with the rest of us. He has about 500 signs. His vision is 2100/20. He doesn’t have semi-circular canals in his inner ears, which is very important for balance, hence the need for Sunnyside farms.
Back in August, I emailed a friend asking her if she knew anyone that did horse therapy, Hippotherapy. She told me about Sunnyside farms. I was so excited, but also a little unsure of how Caleb would do with horses. So I, my 8 kiddos and Caleb’s intervener made the hour drive over to Clyde park.
Wendy is an amazing teacher in so many ways. She loves children and is so patient in teaching them. My children are writing in journals about their time there at the farm. They’ve enjoyed caring for the animals and seeing Caleb work with the horses.
The 3rd time we visited the farm, Caleb got on a horse. But first he did some finger painting on the horse. He would’ve never touched the horse, if it hadn’t been for that paint. (He’s used to painting, and but tactile defensive.) Within days after his first therapy on the horse, he started walking independently, without his walker. He started clapping, turning in circles and walking backwards. Something clicked in him when he was on that horse.
We definitely want to keep going to Sunnyside farms. It has been a huge blessing to our family and we will always be grateful for the blessing!”
-Elaine C., Amsterdam, MT
“I haven’t known Wendy or the Fjord horses for very long. If I’m being completely honest, I had never even heard of the Fjord horse until one random day mid-fall, Wendy emailed my fiance and I when looking for caregivers to watch over her little farm. I didn’t know it then, but that email was going to completely change the direction of my life.
The first time I stepped foot on Sunnyside Farms, I was intrigued. The picturesque little red farm nestled comfortably at the bottom of the small hill next to the creek looks like it hopped straight out of the pages of a fairytale book. You can feel the love the moment you step out of your car. Little cowboy boots that have been converted into birdhouses hang from the trees, and everywhere you look a small sign or a wonderful piece of art is hidden between the pines, aspen trees, and out buildings. It is very obvious how much work, time, and love Wendy has put into this little hidden gem.
If you know Wendy personally, then you know she holds high standards for her nonprofit, her farm, her life, and her animals. The Fjord horses are the most well-behaved horses I have ever had the pleasure of working with. They may be smaller in size but they make up for it with their hardy bodies and enduring personalities. Their calm and stable demeanor can turn any bad mood into pure happiness.
For the past few years, I have dealt with terrible anxiety and depression. I have felt very stuck in my life and didn’t have any motivation to find a way to get unstuck. I was sad, I disliked my office job, and I felt like I had lost myself. Deciding to be a caregiver for Sunnyside Farms was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Waking up everyday, and forcing myself to go outside and care for the animals has changed my perspective on life. For the first time in years, I don’t have to try to force myself to smile. For the first time in a very long time, I am truly and effortless, happy and in a good place mentally. Six months may not be a long time but a lot can change in half a year. Sunnyside Farms helped me find myself again. Fjord horses are magical and I can honestly say, I have changed for the better since they have been in my life.”
-Hannah S., Bozeman, MT
“I met Wendy Bauwens few years ago in Wickenburg and became intrigued when she told me about her Norwegian Fjords, the name alone sounded magical. I didn’t grow up around horses and was thrown off as an adult. I had been wanting my grandchildren to have some early exposure to horses, so they would grow up comfortable around them and the Norwegian Fjords at Sunnyside Farms seemed like the place to start. The bond grew quickly between the grandchildren, Ms. Wendy and these gentle steeds and was heartwarming to observe. It wasn’t so much about the riding as it was about the interactions between the mares, their foals and the patient and thoughtful instructions from Ms. Wendy as the children brushed and groomed the horses and discussed their qualities and gentle temperament. From a distance, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Ms. Wendy answers to the young ones’ questions about horse anatomy and the ways of things: “how do you know when the baby will come; why do we braid the tail; and how does the baby know which one their mama is?”
Our grandkids are ages 12, 9, 7, and 9 months and they have had to face some challenges, but when my husband and I see them with Ms. Wendy and her Fjords our hearts are full of happiness. And, there is no happier time than when there are new foals…that is when the real fun begins. There is petting and cuddling with furry white newborns followed by some rambunctiousness, like getting a foal to play with a giant soccer ball around the pen.
When the kids do ride, it isn’t like anything I could ever have imagined! They start bareback, sitting forwards, backwards, and sideways, with hands in the air. This has helped them gain confidence and balance on the horses. They are now starting to trot in English and Western saddles with nice straight backs. They look so self-assured and focused. The children’s time at Sunnyside is so fun to observe that we often end up with an entourage of friends and family who just want to come watch, and of course pet the Norwegian Fjords. I feel like there is something medicinal that happens for all of us, even for the older visitors who join us. Warm smiles light up our eyes and we tend to linger until sunset to give that one last caress of love to one of Ms. Wendy’s Fjords. Thank you, Ms. Wendy!”
– Grandma P., Wickenburg, Arizona
“My children have fallen in love! Wendy is a remarkable trainer.” – Lyndsey B., Wickenburg, Arizona
“What you do Wendy, with these foals and horses is amazing. I am so appreciative of the work that you put into them from the get go…. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to get my baby from you……….. thank you.”
– T. Nicole E., Simi Valley, California
“Spending three-plus days at Sunnyside Farms was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the entire Dix O’hana and one that Hiro in particular will never forget—mahalo nui loa for making us feel so much at home with you, your friends and, of course, all of your wonderful four-legged, three-legged and two-legged companions.”
– Chris D., Honolulu, Hawai’i
“…I have been on the Sunnyside Farm website a lot and its amazing. It is so beautiful, organized, easy to get around, informative, everything from the photos to the music and many many other really great things. Whoever did it and updates it, has done an amazing job. It’s fresh and present.
Your program with the horses shows such a dedication to the breed, to using your beauties to their greatest potential as the beautiful creatures they are and their capacity to change the lives of so many people thru your amazingly compitent guidence. They are lucky horses to be in your care. They are lucky horses to be living with you.
Your dedication to children, exposing them to your talents as a breeder, a teaching, the kindness and love for your animals shows in your website. It’s beautiful.
It’s so impressive. Wendy is are a force for good if there ever was one. She lives what you teaches. It’s a lot of work, that’s obvious. I love her energy and commitment to everything she does. I love that she touches so many in a loving and good, positive and kind way. You go girl!”
Patricia L., Clyde Park, MT
“I discovered Wendy after searching for a female driving trainer. She was gracious, informative and friendly so I made arrangements to work with her at her winter farm location outside of Wickenburg, AZ. She introduced me to her Norwegian Fjord Horses and I fell in love. We hitched up her stallion, Smedsmo Gråen and went for a drive. I soon realized the magic of the Fjord. They are such beautiful, wonderful, calm, gentle, and easy going horses. Wendy and Smedsmo showed me the basics to driving and it wasn’t long before I was able to take the reins. Wendy’s focus in on safety which is very helpful when you will be driving solo. She is knowledgeable, approachable, prompt, and hard working. Her programs are something that I can support and her horses are outstanding.”
– Sunny T., Kaycee, Wyoming
“I met Wendy 5 years ago when I purchased my first Fjord from her. I have never looked back! Wendy has always been there for me and my horses! I email her with questions and get back quick responses. She is like a sister to me. She has helped me thru good times and hard times. What I admire most is her passion for therapy work through horses and her ability to communicate so clearly her passion. Wendy has an unbridled love for helping folks through therapy riding and driving. She is the best!!
I also admire her deep love for the Norwegian Fjord Horse. Wendy respects the need of “new blood” coming directly from “The Old Country” in Norway. She traveled to Norway to purchase Fjords just for that.
The equestrian community desperately needs more Wendy’s in it’s world!”
– Carol L., Sebastapol, California
“Wendy is definitely doing things right! She creates excitement and makes BIG things happen! Most people don’t have the know how or the energy to even consider this type of program. Fjords are her life!”
– Karen L., Appleton, Wisconsin
“…As a nurse that sees life and death every day, I am truly inspired by your dedication to helping others. Not many people like you out there!”
Kelly M., Eu Claire, WI