By Karen Billing
The horses of Rancho Santa Fe’s Osuna Valley Stock Farm brought joy to a group of 17 homeless children from the San Diego Rescue Mission on Saturday, Sept. 7.
Chase and Amy Casson, the local couple who leases the farm, were able to run their first Horses for Healing event with help from the ProHope Foundation, founded by Rancho Santa Fe resident Greg Lansing, his wife, Laine, and daughter Desirea.
The group of children from the Rescue Mission, along with some of their parents, came out to the ranch to groom, feed and ride the horses, as well as pet and play with other farm animals such as goats, sheep, dogs and a miniature cow. The group of kids also got to paint and decorate horseshoes as souvenirs of their day.
For many of the kids it was their first time being around or on a horse. Even some of the parents were riding a horse for the first time and Amy said their children sweetly cheered them on as they rode.
“Horses are very therapeutic,” said Chase Casson. “It’s amazing the confidence they bring out in the kids, it’s mind-boggling.”
“There’s a special bond that people can have with animals,” said Amy, who added that they have experienced it with their own children’s love for the horses on the farm.
The Cassons, both 38, have three girls who attend Horizon Prep in Rancho Santa Fe. Since they started leasing Osuna Valley six months ago, they knew they wanted to host a charity event but they didn’t have the chance to do so until partnering with ProHope, another new nonprofit.
Chase Casson is vice president of investor relations at Lansing Companies in Carmel Valley, where Greg Lansing serves as president and CEO of one of the largest land development companies in the U.S.
The Lansings founded ProHope in November 2012 as an organization committed to helping children, teens and young adults who suffer from mental illness.
“We feel it is so important to give back and this was something very near and dear to us, based on issues with someone close to us and other young people who have challenges in life,” Greg Lansing said. “We’ve already provided funding for one young person to get their life back on track and we’re working on our second. Our goal is to help hundreds of kids.”
As both the Cassons’ Horses for Healing and ProHope aim to help kids in need, Chase said it was a natural fit for them to work together on this event, hopefully the first of many.
The recent event was very rewarding for all involved as children from the Rescue Mission were joined by families who board at the farm and other volunteers.
Amy said the children at the Rescue Mission go on one field trip per month — most of the kids never leave the mission other than to go to school or to a doctor’s appointment or legal appointment.
“I think about how often my kids get to go out and play and do fun stuff every week and the children at the Rescue Mission only get one day a month,” Amy Casson said. “That one day a month, that’s a big deal for them, so it was really special for them and it made it even more important to us. That’s why I want to do this again and again.”
Everyone stayed longer than anticipated and no one wanted to go home, according to Greg Lansing.
“It was such an awesome experience for the kids and for us,” Greg Lansing said.
“It changes the adults too, we get as much out of it as the kids do,” said Laine Lansing. “Greg and I were teary-eyed watching the group, they were singing songs and they were so genuinely happy. That we were able to bring them that happiness, that made the whole thing worth it.”
Chase Casson said they would love to work with San Diego Rescue Mission again or any other group that would be interested. Donations to the Cassons’ Horses for Healing program as well as ProHope can be made at prohopefoundation.org.