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Upstate NY Farm a Haven for Abandoned Animals

Although she stands just five feet two inches tall, Lynn Cross has the ability to take the biggest, most broken down and unwanted horse and nurse him back to health, adding ten to twenty years to the animal’s life. In addition to giving these animals a safe place to live, she also gives them a purpose: she has created an award-winning educational program that matches children and adults of all abilities with the horses. “Many of the horses were abandoned, abused or just not engaged…not unlike some of the children who visit the farm. It’s as if they relate on a higher, more compassionate level, and it’s a win-win for all,” shares Ms. Cross.

Touching Children in Unusual Ways

Located on in the picturesque hamlet of Old Chatham, NY, since 1977 Little Brook Farm has been a sanctuary for nearly 70 horses that roam 148 bucolic acres. Little Brook is also home to a unique, non-profit educational program, Balanced Innovative Teaching Strategies (BITS), which brings children and young adults of varying abilities in close contact with horses to enhance classroom learning and to build positive self-image. The program is approved by the New York State Department of Education and stands alone in terms of its diversity and its unorthodox method of using the horse as a teaching partner in a range of educational, vocational and therapeutic activities. “The focus of the program is the horse: he is non-judgmental, provides immediate feedback and offers unlimited possibilities to grow mentally, physically and emotionally,” offers Ms. Cross.

 BITS, started in 1986, has been recognized by the government and private entities as an outstanding program serving students from pre-school through college with stunning results. Students have a customized plan with activities and goals consistent with their ability. In addition to working with students who are mentally and physically challenged, the program has also been incorporated into many school curricula as far away as inner city Manhattan. “It didn’t take us long to realize that learning about horses and how to care for them is an excellent vehicle to teach math, history and writing. The children are excited to participate, and even those who are chronically absent from school never miss a day,” observes Ms. Cross, who was trained as a teacher and spent many years in the classroom. To date, BITS has worked with over 80 schools, agencies and organizations, providing services to over 2000 students annually.

A Chance Visit that Changed Her Life

Ms. Cross didn’t plan to become the horse rescuer. Looking for a pleasure horse for a friend in 2001, she stopped by a camp that had an animal for sale. Appalled by the conditions she observed, Ms. Cross realized that she had to rescue all 23 horses at the camp, and she had 24 hours to do so. The challenge was amassing enough money to arrange for the transport – and successful she was as every single horse made it to Little Brook Farm.

The 23 camp horses and all that followed were not necessarily damaged nor diseased; rather they just fell into the wrong hands. “Most horses are at risk due to their owners’ ignorance. When they lose interest or feel the animal is costing them too much, owners often abandon their animals, provide minimal care or send them to slaughter. We consider each of our horses a ‘diamond in the rough,’ and with a little love and TLC they return to good health and become the cornerstone of the BITS program,” she adds.

The act of rescuing horses has also had a therapeutic affect on Ms. Cross herself. After tragically losing her son in 2000, she threw herself into rescue, and the following year she brought 30 horses to Little Brook Farm, the highest number in any given year.

Professionals also praise the work of Lynn Cross and Little Brook Farm. Holly Cheever, Vice President, New York State Humane Association states: “As a veterinarian who works extensively with humane organizations and law officers, I have been fortunate to count 

Lynn Cross as a personal friend and invaluable ally in our many attempts to save horses from horrendous hoarder, starvation and neglect. We who work in the field of animal rescue can always rest assured that the horses in her care are guaranteed a perfect home for the rest of their days.” In 2008, Lynn Cross was invited by the USDA in Washington DC to address congressmen and senators among others on the topic of “Solutions and Options for the Unwanted Horse.”

Lynn Cross’ BITS program and her rescue efforts are supported through donations and 100% of the profits from a summer riding program. For additional information, visit http://www.littlebrookfarm.org. To donate to BITS, visit http://www.networkforgood.org. “My goal is to assist other districts around the country to set up education programs similar to BITS as it serves both students and horses in the most positive and productive way,” closes Ms. Cross.

 

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