- The goats at Helping Hands Healing Sanctuary are very social and have been imprinted to love people since they were born. Because of their sweet temperament and love of people, they are used for Animal/Farm/Goat Therapy on an almost daily basis. Many of the current groups that come for farm therapy are special needs kids/schools, and troubled youth in the Chehalem Youth and Family services, residents of the local Sober Living Program, and also a facility helping those recover from addiction. Most recently they have been serving Returning Veterans and their families, helping with issues related to anger, depression and PTSD.
- Currently, the goat pen is empty, with only a three-sided food shelter to protect them from the Oregon rain. The rest of the area is empty. There are two benches for people to sit on while visiting or working with the goats.
- In discussing with Rose Sullivan, owner, what her needs are on the farm, she mentioned the need for an interactive area in the goat pen so the people coming for goat therapy and the goats can work together.
- The goats also need a place to exercise and play, as that is what they always want to do, but they don’t have a play structure for them to do this. Because the farm is in Oregon where it rains a lot, the goats spend a lot of time inside the sleep/food shelter.
- Since they get lots of kids and adults that want to be with the goats to hug and love, they need a play structure where they can interact together.
- I need to learn more about the proper building materials that will stand up to the harsh weather in the Pacific North West, rain and snow.
- I will be seeking construction advice in order to build a structure strong enough to handle a tribe of goats climbing and jumping on it.
- I also need to learn how best to acquire and transport materials in or to Oregon.
I started with an idea of what I wanted, like a structure, jumping areas, and interactive areas. From there I researched existing structures, both online and by visiting local farms with goats. Some farms even have walkways fifteen feet in the air that allow the goats to cross from one enclosure to another. We also looked at resources we already had on hand, like a family friend who races and has used tires we could bury in the ground for the goats to jump on.
The structure ended up 30 inches off the ground. We used cement footings to keep the wood from sitting in the muck. The platform is twelve feet by eight feet. We built an additional structure on top that is six feet by four feet.
The final implementation has stairs instead of ramps due to safety concerns. Screws were used over nails, as the sheep were able to lift the initial steps off their supports. Moving the top structure to the side allows for a larger open area for goats and children to interact.
Helping Hands Healing Sanctuary in Newberg, Oregon, has a tribe of goats. The owner of the farm wants a play structure built so that the goats and the people who come to the farm for goat therapy have a place to better interact rather than standing in the currently empty pen.
Building a play area fulfills an expressed need of the farm and serves both the goats, and anyone who comes to the farm to interact with them. In addition, the goats now have a place for behavioral enrichment and exercise as they love to climb and jump.
When the owner, Rose Sullivan, was talking with me about the need of a structure, I decided this should be my project as I have volunteered at the Helping Hands Healing Sanctuary farm over the last six summers, and I wanted to give something long lasting back to farm.
Stress continues to be a global concern with all walks of life. Animal therapy in general, and goat therapy in specific, helps calm us humans. The goats are in-tune with our internal rhythms and have a unique way of understanding what we need.
My experiences there have added to my growing maturity and confidence around animals. My experience volunteering on the farm and learning how it runs has helped form my desire to work with animals in the future, possibly running my own animal therapy environment someday.
Designing and building a large wooden structure, will help me in designing and building animal enclosures in the future. Planning, and budgeting, will allow me to gain project management skills. Leading a team through the building process will help me gain experience as a leader.
To get more information about the farm, visit https://helpinghandshorse.org.