At Team Velvet, a trio of horses help children build self-esteem and resiliency in the face of overwhelming stress and childhood trauma. Velvet, the organization’s namesake, serves as the primary therapy horse for the New Jersey-based nonprofit.
“I purchased Velvet when he was just a foal, drawn to his intuitive ability to read people,” recalls Dr. Susan Edwards, a licensed psychologist and founder of Team Velvet. “I knew right away that together, we would have a shared purpose of working with children.”
Eleven years later, the duo remains the heart and soul of Team Velvet’s equine-facilitated mental health services program. For Susan, incorporating horses into her treatment program was a natural fit. “I’ve always been amazed at the power of a loving heart, in people as well as animals, because it has such a strong healing effect,” she explains. “The love offered by these therapy horses is a powerful strengthener of what is good and resilient in the children we help.”
Make no mistake, this science-based program is no riding camp. In fact, participants never leave the ground. Instead, they work with their therapy horse partners Velvet, Precious and Lil’ Annie to play interactive games and activities. Along the way, they build critical communication skills, increase self-esteem and foster resiliency.
“Every day, children experience the death of a loved one, witness violence, are victims of crimes or intense bullying, are disfigured by accident or face other traumatic events,” Susan explains. “In the extreme, this childhood trauma can cause flashbacks, blackouts, and even make a child want to die. At Team Velvet, we offer a unique service to help.”