Give to the Max for Changing Gaits Inc. 2018
If only it could be as easy for us humans to make needed transitions in our lives. It takes more than education for people to change direction and overcome obstacles. For many people caught in addiction and other destructive behaviors, it takes faith and encouragement — and it sometimes takes a miracle.
At Changing Gaits, an equine-assisted addiction therapy facility near Brook Park, Minn., they teach about faith and provide plenty of encouragement and support. And God provides the miracles.
Founder and director Nile “Guy” Kaufman says his horse Shadow is the inspiration behind Changing Gaits. About 10 years ago, Kaufman found his way out of a lifetime of alcohol addiction through faith in Jesus Christ. A city kid who grew up in St. Paul, Kaufman migrated to East Central Minnesota a few years ago, where he fell in love with a young Arab gelding at Wild River Stables east of North Branch. Shadow was just about as green as Kaufman, but together they learned to make the always magical horse-human connection and a bond was formed. Somewhere in the back of Kaufman’s mind a dream began to form, too, of using horses to help people in the way Shadow had helped him make the transition from addiction to sobriety to a healthy life.
Eventually Kaufman became a trail guide at Wild River Stables and he and Shadow became an inseparable team. Then the unthinkable happened. On June 29, 2004, Kaufman arrived at the stable and went to catch Shadow, only to find him suffocated with twine wrapped around his throat. “His head was swelled up as big as a hippopotamus,” Kaufman recalls. “His eyes were literally bulged out of his head and blood and mucous were pouring out of his
When Sunrise Equine Veterinary Services personnel arrived, they said it was the worst case of strangulation they had ever seen. The vet recommended putting Shadow down immediately. But Kaufman refused. “You don’t understand,” he said. “I need this horse. We have a deal with God to save kids.” With Shadow near death, Kaufman insisted that the vet perform an emergency tracheotomy in the field. The vet expertly rigged a makeshift tube out of a syringe, which Kaufman held in place in Shadow’s throat during the long drive to Stillwater Veterinary Clinic.
While watching the vet work, Kaufman continued to pray. “I told the Lord that if it was His will for Shadow to survive, I would dedicate the rest of my life to His work,” he said.
Shadow did survive, miraculously. “The vet told me Shadow was one in a million and I got the one,” Kaufman said. “I told him I wondered if the other 999,999 had faith in Jesus Christ.”
Changing Gaits was born out of this experience, Kaufman explains. That summer he resigned his job in the Cities, after 21 years with the same company, and moved to Pine County. By the fall of 2004, Changing Gaits was a reality with the construction of a home and 100- by 120-foot indoor arena, thanks to help from a friend. Since that time an outdoor arena, paddocks, trails and other facilities have been added. Kaufman is now a Certified Equine Specialist through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) and through Greg Kersten's OK Corral.
Then there are the horses. Starting with Shadow, they began arriving, one by one. Each has made a difficult transition in its life — many from abuse or neglect. Kaufman explained that each horse has a past to overcome, just like the kids and adults they are helping.
Changing Gaits is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Kaufman is assisted by a licensed and board-certified drug and alcohol counselor Cheryl Shanahan of Stacy, Minn.; and many volunteers. They offer a non-riding program of equine-assisted addiction services using horses as a tool for teaching clients how to deal with emotions, people and situations. The licensed counselor and equine specialist work together to design sessions that challenge clients to identify and use skills such as non-verbal communication, problem solving and teamwork. Their main focus is adolescents, but they have helped many adults find sobriety and faith also.
Tax-deductible donations are always needed at Changing Gaits. These can be in the form of hay or other supplies and equine services, as well as monetary contributions.
For more information, call 320-438-4001 or see their Web site at www.changinggaitsinc.com.
Originally published in Horse & Family in June of 2008. Written by Charlotte Wilcox of Harris, MN
Changing Gaits Inc
Tax id (EIN)
Education, Animals, Health, Faith, Children & Family, Community, Volunteer
AddressP.O. Box 21 27274 Monument Road