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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e  February 2011


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Spirit Ranch

Page: 2

Wiss will soon be taking a leave of absence from Spirit Ranch, when she heads to her daughter's restaurant in the Virgin Islands, where she will be the pastry chef for a few months. "She said that I only have to work in the morning, by myself, and the view from the kitchen overlooks the sea."

Sounds like a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Both fundraising and baking professionally are part of Wiss' extensive resume. She has been in Las Cruces for about two and a half years. Her background ranges from a master's degree in Pastoral Ministry to operating a biscotti-baking shop back in Ann Arbor to managing the first Fair Trade store in that city.



Spirit Ranch also sponsors several Horse Camps that run two days each week for kids who are 6 to 13 years old.

The first camps were gender specific, but after that it went co-ed, and soon swimming therapy was added to the curriculum. At Horse Camp, the children are allowed to interact with horses but don't have to do any actual riding unless they want to, learning care and grooming skills and increasing their insights into horse and human behavior.

Wiss describes several amazing experiences during the camps. One child couldn't swim at all at the start of the camp, but by the end had conquered the entire pool, shallow end to deep end.

"We had a mother and daughter here who needed to work on patience," Wiss goes on, "and they were amazed to find that it was something they could work on and discuss while working with the horses.

"The only expectation here is to show up and do the work for the hour that you are here."

Another program, Wild Women Retreats, takes place several times each year in cooperation with Ranch DuBois, located in Corrales, just north of Albuquerque. These weekend-long adult retreats are designed to have small groups of women "utilize their deep inner resources for living out their passions." Using the wisdom of their fellow women campers and horses, guests are offered opportunities for "ongoing renewal, moving beyond self-imposed barriers" and "self-nurturing."



The Jump Start program began last October when 12 physicians from the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso came to Spirit Ranch to see if the ranch could be utilized to help soldiers. By unanimous consent of the doctors, the program began, and is slowly taking root. Says Wiss, "We don't take soldiers who are right off the front, but rather those who (have returned) and are wondering, 'How do I reconnect with my family?'"

Previously, the Army Medical Center had used dogs for therapy. As Wiss points out with a smile, however, "Dogs are nice, but usually all you can do is pet them."

It is different with horses, and she again notes that the horses at Spirit Ranch seem to have a special sense of what they are there for and why they are doing it.

Remick-Barlow is also a life coach and marriage counselor — and it's probably a good thing that she has other sources of income, given the costs of maintaining Spirit Ranch. "Last year alone, Ann had $50,000 in expenses just for the horses," Wiss says. "They are very expensive to keep and maintain."

Remick-Barlow won't turn down anyone she knows she can help, although she cannot take charity cases.

"Too many people don't' get what we do and how it works," Wiss says. "If they would just try it, I think they would really see how it can serve the community."

Besides expanding and continuing the work with veterans and their families, future goals of Spirit Ranch include EAP programs for childhood obesity, grief and loss programs for children and families, and the continued rescue and rehab of horses.

Wiss wraps things up neatly with three words when describing the ongoing work of Remick-Barlow and the other folks who work at Spirit Ranch:

"Magic happens here."



For more information on Spirit Ranch, see equineassistedprograms.com or call (575) 526 6040. For more information on Wild Women Retreats, visit ranchdubois.com/wildwomenretreats.html Like most nonprofit organizations, the related Helping Kids Be Kids has a wish list that ranges from updated office equipment to hay and special horse feed. Although it's not looking for volunteers to work with clients, the group does welcome help with cleaning stables and grooming horses; contact Gabe Rochelle, the recently appointed volunteer coordinator, at (575) 524-2296.

 

Senior writer Jeff Berg also wrote this
issue's story on author Jennifer Cervantes.



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