MILWAUKEE — You might not think it, but cleaning horse stalls brings Glenn Scheuerman immense joy. It's a smelly job, but it's just part of the trade off. He has kept the horse stables clean, while horses have changed his life.
"I almost like myself better. I’m more at peace. Twenty some years ago, I wasn’t a rebel but I was a little angry at the world. Where (horses), like I said, they put my mind at ease," U.S. Army veteran Scheuerman said.
He has done horse therapy for a few years. It helped him become a better person. While sometimes the job is dirty, what he gets in return is worth it. Now with a new horse therapy center opening in Milwaukee, he is urging every veteran to try it out. The classroom therapy has been nice, he said. But nothing compares to working with these magnificent animals.
"Being with the horses, which I’ve been doing actually for a couple years at a couple other locations, is the best therapy I have ever got."
The new equine therapy center is called MKE Urban Stables at 143 E. Lincoln Ave. in Milwaukee. It opened in June 2021. Having an alternative therapy option like this in a major city is pretty unique.
“A lot of therapy services with horses are offered around the state, but many of those services are offered in rural areas that people in the city can’t access. So what we wanted to do was provide the ability for people in our city to access this type of therapy," Kent Lovern, the chair of the board of directors for MKE Urban Stables, said.
It's not easy to get the necessary space to house a bunch of horses inside a city. That's why this equine therapy center is so different.
Right now though, the veteran program hasn't begun. Scheuerman is a volunteer helping with general maintenance and upkeep. However, potentially in the fall, the program will welcome its first few veterans. Currently, MKE Urban Stables focuses on its youth program. It has around 25 different kids coming in for various services.
"What we see for them in the future is these, for these core veteran volunteers that we have now, to become volunteer mentors. So when new volunteers come in they can take over some of training them," Felicia Sackett, an equine manager at MKE Urban Stables, said.
It's akin to a peer-to-peer program, and Scheuerman would potentially be one of the veterans mentoring others.
Sackett said horse therapy is good for just about any type of therapy: emotional support, trauma victims, those with special needs, and people with disabilities.
Equine therapy offers services that traditional forms of therapy can't. Horses are incredibly intuitive animals. They can give immediate feedback and mirror your emotions. If you are sad, depressed, or angry, so will your horse. In that similar context, to be able to work with the horses, you must gain their trust. It takes practice, patience, and self-awareness in order to create a connection. Plus, since these are such large animals, it can help people overcome their fears.
“I mean, it’s like they’re looking into your soul. I mean, it’s like you look into their eyes. It’s indescribable," Scheuerman said.
This space is more than just a therapy center, though. MKE Urban Stables houses the Milwaukee Police Department’s horses. The goal is to establish community relations between officers and the general public. They have already brought in a group of students.
“And then we showed the students how to groom the horses, and we allowed the students to give them some treats, and then I talked a little bit about how officers are here for you," Officer John Pederson, said.
There is a room for nearly 100 people that can be used for community meetings. Afterwards, those who wish to stay could get a tour of the facility. In fact, they could even get a show.
"It's nice to be able to invite people into our home, and be able to host them here, and we’ve got this area. We’ve got bleachers behind you where we can get about 100 people."
Pederson is talking about an indoor showroom that normally police use for training exercises during the winter, but it could double as an event space.
"I hope this to be a busy hub of activity where the community’s welcome to come here and experience these magnificent animals," Pederson said.
There is a lot going on at MKE Urban Stables, but it's all based on the same concept: there is a certain intangible quality animals have that makes overcoming obstacles a little easier.