By Lauren Wong
“How can we create something that provides, number one, a second chance for these animals who would have easily been slaughtered, and number two, provide a moment and experience for volunteers that may need a break from their job. Maybe they’re stressed or dealing with depression, PTSD, etc. Maybe they just need an outlet,” Jesse Pekarek, founder of Happy Hooves, volunteer coordinator, and events planner says. “We’ve created this community farm to give people the chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Pulling up to the farm, it’s hard to believe you’re still within the city lines of Phoenix. Neighbors, Pekarek, and Brenda Kuhn, knocked down the wall that separated their properties a couple years ago and have been working together since.
Happy Hooves is a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to the mission of providing animal assisted therapy and activity for those in need. Their animal sanctuary consists of a group of minis, alpacas, cows, donkeys, and horses. They rescue animals from all over the country, work on rehabilitating them, and eventually finding them new homes if the farm isn’t going to be their permanent stay. They began with visiting nursing homes, memory care centers, etc., but when the pandemic hit they were forced to look at everything with a different perspective. They started sharing their services on Airbnb Experiences so anyone could come in and spend some time on the farm.
“It provides people with inspiration and motivation, they see the passion; it bleeds through my pores. I love to see people leave here so happy… it’s all those little things that give you meaning and life,” Pekarek says. Kuhn, horse trainer and medic, adds that it’s about helping people grow and finding the best of who they are, who they can be. “I want people to come in and see these animals, work with them, and feel accepted, feel that hey, it doesn’t matter what else I do in life because in this moment, I am accepted.” It’s a win-win situation, the animals win and the guests win.
There’s so much that we can learn from these animals by just taking a moment out of our day to be present with them. “Everyone talks about trauma, these guys know trauma. They’ve been starved, they’ve been hurt, they’ve been dumped, they’ve been abandoned, and they’ve come up from all of that to trust us again,” Kuhn says. “We need purpose in this world and I’d like to think that people will come out of here thinking about themselves more. Thinking about what they can do in this world, and how they can walk through it. Asking themselves, what could I do to make life better for someone else?”
Although they don’t like to make set plans for what’s to come, ensuring that they stay open to whatever opportunity could come their way, they’re looking to focus more on Eagala therapy (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) and working towards more social outreach. Eagala is a hands-on approach to therapy that’s designed to help you work through life challenges alongside horses. “I’ve raised an autistic, trans-gender child, and I wanted to deal more with the autism community and find a way to help these kids,” Kuhn says. They’ve been in contact with several groups around the community to get more of this work underway.
This is an experience put here for anyone. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on a different brain spectrum, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the LGBTQ spectrum, it doesn’t matter the color of your skin. It’s all inclusive to anyone who can come here and get something out of interacting with these animals,” Kuhn says. Each tour is different and catered to who is there for that day. Sometimes people don’t care to see the big horses, or to spend time with the minis. The guests are able to guide the tour and craft it into whatever they’d like.
Animals can sense what baggage you’re bringing into the farm; anxiety, anger, fear, etc. They’re a reflection of you.
The number of animals that get slaughtered and abused on an annual basis is absolutely heartbreaking. There’s no right or easy way to go about picking which animals to rescue and bring back to the farm. Enough animals go out of this world knowing nothing but hatred and abuse. A lot of animals are utilized as a tool their whole lives. When it comes to choosing, they look up to a higher power to help, which animal talks to them, leaves an impression on their heart. The hard truth is that you can’t save them all, but you can know that you changed the entire world for those you did save, giving them a second chance at a life, this time filled with love.
“If you’re creative and you have ambition, a goal and a desire, you’re going to find a way to not just survive, but to push through,” Pekarek says. “The one thing that’s constant is change and if you’re creative and have a desire, you’ll figure it out from there.”
“In the framework of eternity, at least there’s one that’s going to go out of this world one day and say ‘okay, I don’t hate everybody. I wasn’t just abused, I was loved, I was cared for, I was fed. I had Jesse hugging me, and petting me all over,’” Kuhn says. “In this world if everyone would take care of every plant, animal, and human that is on their little piece of property, their little house instead of being abusive, cruel, selfish or greedy, the whole world would be incredible… You have to start somewhere so you might as well start here.”
Airbnb rental coming soon: Stay at the guest house on the farm! It’s a three bedroom, two bathroom property that is approximately 1050 square-feet. The stay is on track to be available for rent through Airbnb around Feb. 1.