The word “I am related to everyone.” hun•ka•pi /hun-kah-pee/ – A Lakota word With February being Valentines — the month of love, I could not think of a better...
The word “I am related to everyone.” hun•ka•pi /hun-kah-pee/ – A Lakota word
With February being Valentines — the month of love, I could not think of a better way to recognize all the many facets the miracle of love is, than with this interview with Terra Schaad, CEO and founder of Hunkapi Farms.
You might not think one of the most inspirational and healing places is right here in Scottsdale, AZ. I think we’re known more for our golf courses, shopping, dining and hiking. Yet Hunkapi Farms is centered within minutes from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and the sounds of traffic noise.
Once the gates of the farm open — you know you’ve arrived somewhere extremely special….a place you don’t want to leave.
I’ve known Terra and the Hunkapi team for years, and have witnessed their expansion, from the number of clients they serve each week to the growing number of rescue animals who now call the land they run and gallop around on, home. It’s a beautiful menagerie of people and animals. Every time I’m there, I fill up with harmony, healing and hope.
— Barbara Nicholson-Brown
What was the initial inspiration for creating Hunkapi Farms, and its history.
Hunkapi was initially founded in 1999 at Arizona State University after three years of extensive research. It found its way to Scottsdale in 2008, and we have proudly claimed to be a part of the Wests Most Western Town ever since. Hunkapi was created to give horses to children with special needs.
Today, Hunkapi Farms continues to work with children who have special needs, and we have also extended our services to include children and adults with diagnoses that include post-traumatic stress, ALS, cancer, addiction disorders, autism, and more. Hunkapi is the home to 32 therapy horses, and two rescue cows. We also have goats, turkeys, and pigs scampering about the land.
We serve between 250 and 300 clients per week. Hunkapi also is homebase to 50-100 volunteers who help out with various tasks and needs.
At Hunkapi you teach the ‘World to Fear Less and Love More’. This is a beautiful philosophy for living. How do your clients respond to this message?
At Hunkapi we want people to know to live a life without fear is unrealistic. It is a practice, however, to feel our fears, acknowledge them, and then find ways to nurture and nudge ourselves through them. Once people learn not to hide from their fears, but get more curious about them, it’s empowering and exciting to watch. There is so much we can change, with far less shame and guilt, when we practice using curiosity rather than flight from our fears.
Tell us about the programs you provide for addiction recovery and first responders.
Hunkapi offers on going equine assisted psychotherapy groups for addiction recovery programs in the Valley, and we proudly partner with several recovery programs in the valley. We also offer gratis, six-week, stress reduction groups for first responders. Individuals who are interested in continuing with private, equine therapy programs following their group sessions or in lieu of them are also able to work privately with one of our licensed counselors.
What are a few of the inspiring moments working with clients who have struggled with trauma/PTSD?
I had a woman start for her 9th cohort as a peer support in our six week, first responder group. When she started her first cohort, she was so shut down from PTSD, she could barely make a decision on where to sit. Sitting down to start, now in her 9th cohort, she was bright, smiling, and calm. She opened by saying “Things change. The activation waves get smaller, and you learn that everything is going to be ok”.
When I see her now, I see a client and student turned teacher. I see someone who has healed from the inside out.
We also love seeing people who return after they are out of their 30/60 or 90 day treatment stays at local recovery centers who fell in love with the horses and the community at the farm, and they want to continue to be in the spirit of the farm. A woman said, “I learned that everything matters with the horses, even how I breathe and that is going to help me in my career as a nurse”.
People are affected by the animals in their own way, each special.
What age groups do you serve?
We start working with children as young as the age of three to adults of all ages.
Are other animals used for therapeutic services besides horses?
We mostly use our horses, but integrate in the chickens, dogs, pigs, cows, goats and donkeys. Our pigs make people smile every single day!
Terra, you’ve said horses saved your life. In what way?
Yes they have. I grew up in Bloomington, Illinois and our barn gave me a safe place to go. In the barn and with the horses I was able to feel what safety, comfort, and belonging felt like. It gave me meaning to have something to take care of, that was reliant on me. The responsibility of caring for these animals created a strong work ethic for me. It has a been a very inspirational, healing journey for me. Now to be able to offer these types of healing processes to others… I cannot find the words to describe it. It’s magical and spirit filled.
Are tours available to the public and are volunteers needed at this time?
Hunkapi offers farm tours the second Saturday of every month. They are advertised and promoted on our website and our Facebook page. We always need volunteers to assist with the sessions, horse care, and gardens. https://www.hunkapi.org/
In the fall of 2021, Hunkapi opened the Sit Stay Heal program for dog owners to kennel their animals while seeking housing and other community services to heal their lives. What was the catalyst for this?
There was a need voiced to us from the City of Phoenix of hesitancy in community members that were homeless being fearful to go into housing or treatment for fear of losing their dogs. Hunkapi has a lot of space and a lot of love to give, and we offered up the farm to house the dogs while their owners got the help they needed. The need of the community was the catalyst for the whole thing.
As a community of recovery, how can we, the public help keep Hunkapi successful for generations and years to come?
Hunkapi is a nonprofit so we operate largely on the generosity of our community. We love when people spread the word about the farm, show up to volunteer for lessons or for horse care, and always donations towards our programs help to keep us going year after year. People can sponsor a horse or contribute towards the scholarship program.
Sit Stay Heal Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
From left to right: City of Phoenix Mayor, Kate Gallego and son, MIDWESTERN UNIVERSITY | Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Tom Graves, Terra Schaad, City of Phoenix, Council District 4 and Vice Mayor, Laura Pastor
Want to learn more about Hunkapi Farms?
Take a look into what the farm looks like on any given day and how you can help keep Hunkapi in Scottsdale and support their programs. Visit www.hunkapi.org.
This is a place to open your heart so love can grow.” — Terra Schaad