- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

POTOMAC, Ill. (AP) - A horse is more than rippling beauty - it’s something a child can lean on, learn from, care for and share secrets with.

Without saying a word, a horse can transform a child’s life.

That’s what parents and grandparents are finding out when they bring their youngsters - some with behavioral issues - to Hooves of Hope.

“They have been a godsend,” said Debra Larkin, referring to Stan and Mary Remole and their son, Michael, who run the program. “I thank God every day that they’re here and he helps them keep doing it.”

Larkin has seen significant changes in two grandsons who have been involved in the program. She adopted her five grandchildren after they were taken from an abusive environment, and is raising them alone.

With no adult male presence in the home, the two boys look up to Stan, and have learned that a man doesn’t have to be abusive.

Devan, who just turned 9, “thinks the sun rises and sets on Stan,” his grandmother said. “If Stan says anything, that’s the gospel.”

Devan has had to deal with several issues stemming from his upbringing, she said, adding, “He’s a very angry little boy.” However, she said, “Working with the horses is helping greatly. A day or two afterward, he has empathy.”

Devan, a third-grader at Potomac Grade School, seems confident around the animals.

His older brother, Caleb, now 13, had gone through the program earlier, and also was angry. One time, the horses backed away from him when he was angry, and would have nothing to do with him, Larkin said.

“The horses sense that (anger), and they waited until Caleb was in a better place,” she said, and then they nuzzled him. “They won’t let him touch them until he’s in a good place.”

Larkin said she wishes the family could go to the ranch every day, not just once a week, adding, “I’m sure I’ll be dealing with Hooves of Hope for years to come.”

Part of the family

Susan Ellett, a single mother, also is an example of a parent whose children has benefited from the program. Her daughter, Mariah, 17, went through the program and now is a mentor, who spends quality time with her brother, Kenneth, 14, at Hooves of Hope.

Ellett recalled that Kenneth had severe behavioral and discipline issues at home and school, and was failing his classes. When he joined Hooves of Hope two years ago, he wouldn’t look Stan Remole in the eye.

Through the activities, however, Kenneth learned how to work with others and how to become part of a family.

Within a few months, he began to see Stan as a male role model, and now they’re buddies. Kenneth’s behavior and grades eventually improved.

Last school year, there were still some issues, Ellett said, but there have been no behavioral problems this year.

“He went from explosive behavior and flunking to a total turnaround,” she said, adding, “It’s not perfect . he has his moments.”

Hooves of Hope, she said, teaches the fundamentals of family, God and school. The family now attends church, she said.

The community is fortunate to have the Remoles, she said, describing them as “very God-loving, generous people. They have done a remarkable job.”

Kenneth, an eighth-grader at Potomac Grade School, sums up his view: “This is just fun to work with horses.” He hopes to have his own someday.

Building confidence

Tammy Pollitt agreed that the program has helped her children, Madison, 12, and Seth, 10.

In fact, Madison enjoys working around the horses so much that she decided not to go out for basketball this year - choosing horses over hoops.

“It’s really fun,” Madison said, adding that she wants her own horse someday. She was afraid at first, but learning safety around the horses helped her overcome the fear, she said.

The program has helped Seth build confidence, his mother said. He was afraid to pick up the horses’ hooves at first, but he can do that now. He especially likes the miniature horses.

The Pollitt children have been involved in the program for two years.

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Source: (Danville) Commercial-News, https://bit.ly/XVseyy

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Information from: Commercial-News, https://www.dancomnews.com

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