Eagle Nest School Horse Program

ESS proudly supports the Eagle Nest School Horse Program

Eagle Nest School Principal Mills (photo at right) asked himself, "How can I help children learn compassion? How can I help them learn to trust?" He saw a way to use horses to help kids and started a program late last fall at the Eagle Nest School that is proving to be quite a success.

Horses and kids are the heart and soul of this unique program. Mills’ primary goal is to use horses to build character, develop social skills, in short, to teach the students to become better citizens. In caring for the horses, they are given opportunities to learn compassion, self confidence, responsibility, kindness, and respect. This educational program uses horses to teach kids valuable life lessons.

Lee Mills and ESS volunteer Lisa Sharp. Photo by Lenny Foster.

"For some of the kids, these horses are the most consistent thing in their life," Lee said. Already they have proved to be a positive influence, as the students eagerly anticipate the school time that they get to spend having actual hands-on horse experience. And it’s not uncommon now for kids to call their parents, asking if they can stay after school at the end of class to help take care of the horses.

With the support of the Angel Fire Rotary Club and members of the local community, a small barn was built at the school and is now home to three yearlings (photo at left of one of the two fillies and yearling colt) and one donated mare. There are a little over 200 students, from kindergarten to eighth grade at the Eagle Nest School. The kids help with the horses’ daily care, with the responsibilities divided up according to age groups.

This unique program is quite possibly the only one of its kind at a public school anywhere in the United States. Even in a rural community, it is rare to see horses living at a school!

Goals of the program include having the children be responsible for the health and wellbeing of the horses, exercise and training, and helping support the program financially through special events and fundraisers. For their first fundraiser the students sold carnations and made over $200 to help buy feed for their horses.

The program currently has two more riding horses that are being housed at Lees’ residence until fencing and shelters can be built and they can be brought to the school.

Lee plans to continue to expand the horse program. His vision includes the building of an indoor arena so that horse program time can be scheduled into the curriculum as a regular event. As he learned this past winter, the often severe and unpredictable weather can make it almost impossible to schedule regular horse activities for many days, even weeks, on end. An indoor arena would allow the horse program to operate year round. He plans to make the indoor arena open to the public to use also during non-school hours. He is hoping for additional land to be donated to the school for the horse program, which will provide room for greater expansion.

ESS is now assisting with this program

"The Eagle Nest School Program, under the direction of Lee Mills is doing everything that we (ESS) want to do, through their program of bringing horses and people together, in an educational and compassionate manner," ESS director Ruth Bourgeois said.

"They have the facility, the horses, the kids, and the local support to build an excellent program. ESS currently does not have a facility, so what we are able to do is pretty limited. ESS can support the Eagle Nest School program, offering our time, resources and volunteers. Our missions and goals are very similar, so it’s a perfect way to see some of our goals and dreams become a reality."

Ruth goes to Eagle Nest one day a week as a volunteer. Horse care lessons began in mid-March, with Ruth working with two small groups of students. They learned how to halter the horses and lead them, with emphasis on safety, and spent time grooming each of the horses (all of whom seemed to thoroughly enjoy the attention!).

June 2007 - Kids build shelters and turnouts for the horses

The Eagle Nest School kids of all ages, under the supervision and instruction of adult volunteers and staff, were busy the final week of classes, building fences and shelters for their horses. They got three single-horse sized shelters with runs well started.

Photo at right, the two yearling fillies, summer 2007.

July 2007 - Summer lesson program and work days

After a summer break, we resumed Thursday morning lessons in mid-July at the school. We have a couple of riding horses, so in addition to the horse handling lessons the kids will also be able to start riding now.

Please e-mail ruth@equinespiritsanctuary.org for more information or to sign up as a volunteer.

On July 14, ESS directors Jerry Padilla and Ruth Bourgeois, ESS volunteers Sandy Miller and Lee Hester, and school principalLee Mills spent the morning working on fencing at the school.

Above, Lee Mills and Sandra
Miller putting up a gate.
Jerry Padilla, left, puts in
new fence posts.

Lee Hester, above,
works on fences.

There are still shelters to complete and a bit more fence work to be done, and another work day will take place the last weekend in July or first weekend of August.

Volunteers needed - please let us know if you can help!

November 2007 - Kids ON horses!
The kids enjoyed their first afternoon of riding lessons with two of the program's horses, Lily and Lightning (pictured, right, with instructor Ruth Bourgeois).

The Arabian mare and gelding, retired endurance horses, seemed to enjoy participating as much as the kids.

The Equine Spirit Sanctuary - For Horses and People!