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Students participate in Equine Therapy

At Wonder Wood Ranch in Salinas, owners Marlo & Bryan Schalesky know the importance of love and patience when it comes to caring for animals.
It’s that commitment to care that has led them on a path to help trauma survivors overcome emotional roadblocks to find new paths of hope.
Some of those survivors include SUHSD students who are enrolled in the TAILS Leadership Academy, which is organized by Wonder Wood Ranch. TAILS stands for Trauma-informed Animal-assisted Interactive Leadership and Skills development.
In October, the Schalesky’s began visiting Carr Lake Community Day School for an eight-week program to provide animal-assisted therapeutic services.
Marlo Schalesky brought two horses for the initial visit. Students got to spend time in the quad area learning how to brush, walk and feed the animals.  
“Because horses don’t judge and condemn based on a kid’s past, the horses can break down those barriers in kids that are typically so difficult to breach,” said Marlo Schalesky. “Horses help the kids feel confident, supported, and valuable. I love how the kids respond so positively to the horses and other animals we bring.”
The program is designed to empower students to make positive choices both in the program and in life, as well as giving them guidance on how to set and work toward positive goals.
Throughout the program, the Schalesky’s have brought out other animals, including chickens, llamas and a pony.
“This is a start to supporting some of the highest-at-risk students within the district,” said Bianca Archuleta, School Social Worker at Carr Lake Community Day School. “During the one-hour session you can visibly see the students start to light up, open up to new tasks, share, communicate and build alliances amongst each other.”
Archuleta said the students have enjoyed the program, calling it “fun” and requesting to see more animals.
“I want to see llamas, snakes, hamsters and guinea pigs too,” said one student at the program onset.
TAILS runs through the first week of December at Carr Lake Community Day School. Archuleta is hopeful that the program will be extended for the Winter/Spring Semester.
Marlo Schalesky is proud of the work that has been accomplished so far.
"At Carr Lake School, I’m so happy to see how working with the horses is creating a sense of teamwork between the students,” she said. “Kids who might have thought of each other as adversaries in the classroom are now coming together to support and encourage one another around the horses. A new sense of positive camaraderie is being created and I love it!”