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I admit it, I’m a suburb lady. I like to be close enough to bigger cities to have options, such as entertainment venues, but also have a little distance for less traffic and more safety. I like the convenience of being close to the stores that I frequent, and also like a quiet neighborhood. It’s not the city, nor the country, for me it’s just right. However, for 19 years I have had the honor of going to a farm weekly in the summers, and sometimes more, and I consider it my happy place. It’s funny, even to me, that a place I go to only ten to twelve times per year brings me so much peace and joy, but I think the infrequency is part of the magic.

This farm that is so special to me is Freedom Farm Therapeutic Riding Center in Waverly, Minnesota. http://freedomfarmmn.org The therapeutic horse back riding is for children and adults with physical, mental and emotional challenges. The farm also has Healing With Horses – a veterans program, and Freedom Academy – an alternative learning program and Accredited Public High School. Freedom Farm is located next to the home of it’s founder, Susie Bjorklund and while there are some staff, the farm relies on many volunteers for it’s programs, fundraising and operation. This is the what, and now I’ll try to capture the why.

Let’s begin with the drive. For me it’s about a 45 minute drive one-way to the farm. As city turns into country I notice myself taking deep breaths as I leave my daily environment and the sights take over. The sky becomes bluer, and occasionally I see an Eagle souring through it. The grass and trees are a deep, rich green. Without buildings in the way, the landscape stretches out and the cotton-white clouds look close enough to touch. The natural beauty calms me. As I drive past fields and tractors I think about the farmers and how grateful I am for their hard work to produce the bounty of food often taken for granted by city-goers.

Once at the farm, the sights and sounds are evident. There are riders and volunteers arriving, staff moving horses from outdoors to the arena, as well as a cat and puppy in their favorite spots. You can smell the hay, and hear the horses and goats. More deep breaths.

It’s the energy, though, that really makes this place special. Freedom Farm is love, kindness, friendship, healing, learning, laughter and respect, all mashed together into a calm, yet happy energy. The stars, among all this energy, are the horses. Their personality, strength and unconditional love creates magic. I have witnessed this magic in riders learning to talk, learning balance and posture, overcoming sensory issues..all while riding. Then when the ride is done, there is bonding between the rider and the horse during brushing, and hugs before departing. These large, beautiful animals truly heal, physically and emotionally. Here’s a link to learn a little more about about the horses. https://www.freedomfarmmn.org/horses-of-freedom-farm/

While I am passionate about Freedom Farm and I encourage anyone in the area to think about volunteering there, a happy place for you may be something completely different. Perhaps it’s a cabin, or simply a patio or deck outside your home. Is there a place you go to for soul searching? A place you find yourself going to over and over again? Whatever, wherever this place is, it should be a place of calm and joy. It is essential to a person’s wellness to create opportunities for happiness. Sometimes, I know, this is easier said than done and in this case, one could multi-task. Now I’m not encouraging you to bring work into your happy space, although doing work in a calm, happy environment would certainly make the task easier to complete. In the case of Freedom Farm, volunteers are in a joyous place, and they are providing a service. Perhaps there is a place you love, that feeds your soul, AND it’s a place that you can give to with your time.

Choosing a happy place may take some thoughtful, creative consideration, but it will bring you increased energy and focus, better sleep and better mood, and a sense of calm and joy. It may even bring you magic!

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