The bond between horses and humans

Drazek and Krueger are pictured with Sully, a pony suffering from blindness and cataracts. Photo Courtesy of Caitlin V. Reidy/BU News Service.

By Caitlin V. Reidy

Boston University News Service

With a second chance at life, Laurie Drazek’s horses frolic in wide open fields and greet her warm embrace with their bobbing heads and cheerful neighs. This differs from their earlier days of experiencing trauma and being neglected. 

“Horses that have been abused usually don’t trust humans,” Drazek said. “At least humans can talk and share their feelings if they want to. Unfortunately, horses can’t.” 

Drazek said she has rescued four horses and one pony from auction houses and rescues in the last few years. She saved two miniature horses from the Central New England Equine Rescue in West Brookfield, she said. Cute and clunky, these horses look like basset hounds and take up little room in the barn. 

Beth and Sully bond on Drazek’s Field of Dreams Therapy Farm. Photo Courtesy of Caitlin V. Reidy/BU News Service.

Drazek also rescued two standard horses and, recently, one blind pony named Sully. One horse, Sophia, came from Camelot Auction House in New Jersey, currently known as Cranberry Sales Stables, she said. Now, Sophia bounces her head up and down in excitement for pats and hay, but her past reveals a darker story.  

When Drazek adopted Sophia, she had strangles, a bacterial disease in horses that can be fatal. Sophia received two months of veterinary care and almost died. When Sophia recovered, Drazek said she refused to be touched, and it took a year for Sophia to let Drazek pet her. 

“Horses are like people who have had trauma or abuse,” Drazek said. “Oftentimes, they always remember.”

Drazek’s most recent rescue, a pony named Sully, lived in several foster homes. Drazek said Sully was shipped from Maine when it was discovered he couldn’t be a riding horse due to his blindness and cataracts. 

Drazek said she was at the grain store when she saw a listing for Sully with Hearts and Hooves Rescue and Sanctuary about three months ago. 

“He came running to me and I was in love,” Drazek said. “He’s a lovebug.” 

Dana Mcquire, Drazek’s childhood friend, said Sully felt “grateful to be saved.”

A 2001 Boston College graduate, Drazek is also a licensed clinical social worker in Massachusetts. In 2021, she bought a 21-acre field in Paxton, Massachusetts, building the “Field of Dreams Therapy Farm.” She was also living on the property with her life partner, Kristine. 

At the time Drazek was rescuing Sophia nine years ago, she said she was working with an eight-year-old boy who faced “trauma and abuse issues.” 

“Usually when you’re working with people with trauma, you don’t bring it up unless they do,” Drazek said. 

Drazek told the boy she was rescuing a mistreated horse. When Sophia’s ears were touched, she would become agitated, implying she had been mistreated. The boy wrote notes to Sophia for Drazek to bring to the barn, she said. 

Krueger and Beth go to help Drazek with farm work. Photo Courtesy of Caitlin V. Reidy/BU News Service.

One note told Sophia that it was going to “take time,” but eventually she would be able to “trust Laurie,” Drazek said. Drazek said this moment gave her a “vision.”

“For the past ten years, I have wanted to put my two passions together,” Drazek said. “Now we will have kids with special needs come and work with the horses and receive one-on-one therapy.”

Drazek’s plans to combine her experience as a social worker with her love of rescuing horses began in March. In addition to one-on-one therapy, Drazek is working with the Seven Hills Foundation in Worcester, MA, which focuses on helping people with disabilities live dignified lives, according to their mission statement. 

Jodie Krueger, who works with the Seven Hills Foundation, brings a group of 10 individuals with special needs to the Field of Dreams Therapy Farm to interact with the horses and help with farm work, she said. 

“This helps an undervalued group of individuals learn about farm life,” Krueger said. “Here, they’re accepted as they are, welcomed as they are and loved as they are.” 

Krueger said she met Drazek one year ago and started bringing her friend and roommate, Beth, to Drazek’s farm. Beth started living with Krueger through shared living, a program funded by the Department of Developmental Services, Krueger said. 

“Shared living is when individuals are placed with families in their homes opposed to other living situations, like group homes,” Krueger said. “As I became friends with Laurie, and she needed volunteers at the farm, Beth would come with me because we go everywhere together.” 

Krueger said Beth wanted to help when she saw her cleaning the stalls. She also said she would want to do more each week they went to volunteer at Field of Dreams Therapy Farm. 

“Now, Beth is the one reminding me we need to go to the farm on Saturdays to help with the horses,” Krueger said. 

Beth said she comes to the farm to see the horses and because they make her feel “happy.” 

Krueger said when she saw how much she was enjoying her time on the farm, she spoke to Drazek about putting something together so people could be a part of the farm if they wanted to. 

“My experience working with people with various disabilities and Drazek’s experience working with rescued horses and therapy just seemed like a good fit,” Krueger said. 

Krueger said she spoke to her supervisor about bringing individuals who would be interested in farm life to Field of Dreams Therapy Farm. She said her supervisor thought it was a great idea, and that’s how a once-per-month program began for 10 individuals to come and “experience farm life.” 

Drazek attempts to harness Little Jack, one of her mini-horses, who decides to be an escape artist instead. Photo courtesy of Caitlin V. Reidy/BU News Service.

“They got to learn about the animals and farming. They get exercise and companionship,” Krueger said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.” 

Drazek said horses are highly empathetic, and they sense trauma and anxiety in humans. The bond fostered when an abused horse is cared for by a person who has suffered trauma is “magical,” she said. 

“We are their voices,” Drazek said, referring to her horses. “Every person has a story. Every horse has a story.”

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