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SpiritHorse at Bulkeley High School

A Unique Vocational Agricultural Program on a Farm Setting

Bulkeley High School is pleased to announce a unique collaboration with SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center in Canton CT. Located on 40 acres of bucolic farmland with expansive panoramic views, our students are given the opportunity to experience learning in an alternative to the traditional classroom setting.

Twice weekly, students are transported by school bus where they learn barn and animal care, and the focus is on teamwork and building connections.  A collateral benefit is that students are able to build safe connections with their peers and adults which in turn translates to success both inside and out of school. Job coaches are all trained to provide support to our students in this therapeutic milieu. 

Benefits to Students:

  • Receive training and support in animal care (therapeutic horses and ponies, goats, and chickens), barn care, landscaping, and gardening
  • Learn how to prepare gardens, plant, cultivate and harvest cut flowers and vegetables, care for chickens, and collect eggs
  • Learn and strengthen English language and literacy skills outside of the traditional classroom
  • Receive a stipend at the end of each cycle
  • Work in cooperative teams that support one another
  • Improve regular school attendance and school performance.

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About SpiritHorse

SpiritHorse has developed a research-based program of equine-assisted healthcare, which has a different goal than that of recreational therapy. It includes, for example, 178 specific steps provided in a one-on-one setting for intervening with over 200 children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Championing the use of retired show horses and ponies is also a major goal at SpiritHorse. These horses are ideal for this type of work because they have had years of professional training and show experience. These schoolmasters are the safest mounts for children with disabilities and are patient with our students. We currently have wonderful therapy ponies and horses that are selected very carefully based upon their gentleness, level of training, and the love of their work.


For more information on our school to farm program, please contact Gretchen Levitz-Kimball at 860-695-1170. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


SpiritHorse in the News

Bulkeley Students Bring New Meaning to Thanksgiving (Hartford Courant, front page, Nov. 24, 2016)

Therapeutic Organic Farming and Gardening

There are several raised gardens at the farm that will be maintained and harvested by students and volunteers. The students will learn about all aspects of organic gardening including integrated pest management, the life cycle of nutrients, that food comes from the soil and does not spring "immaculately" from a grocery store shelf, and that the health and well-being of our beloved animals (and humans!) depends on it. Students will make the connection that gardening is directly related to the grass the animals consume, which, like the garden, is fertilized by the compost that originates in our barn detritus. 

For our students we have found that gardening is therapeutic, especially while on bucolic farmland surrounded by nurturing volunteers and staff, as well as their peers.  Empirical research and experience has shown that those with varied cognitive, physical, and emotional abilities find extreme satisfaction in gardening and farming due to the tranquil setting, while also providing reassuring and relaxing physical activity of various levels. This work also provides cognitive enrichment and access to the equines. This therapy is an exceptional opportunity for participants who experience PTSD.

Participants see first-hand how food is grown, cared for and harvested and receive nutritional information, as well. The chickens on the farm are nurtured and cared for by students and the eggs will be shared to provide another source of food. Students will begin selecting their breed of chicken that they will raise and will plan their gardens beginning in early spring.

The culminating project will be sharing the bounty of the harvest with our friends, neighbors and families in a true farm-to-table experience hosted by our students and volunteers in the fall.