Despite only having lived in the area for about seven months, Laura Neiheisel is already giving back.
She is doing that by offering a free event for families with children who are chronically ill or have lost a parent or sibling that will allow them to enjoy dinner and spend time with horses.
“I just want to bless other people with what God has given us out here,” Neiheisel, an Indiana native, said. “It’s a dream come true to live out in the country and have land for the boys to grow up on and have that farm setting for responsibility and different jobs really early.”
Neiheisel’s husband, Travis, serves in the Air Force and was recently stationed at Scott Air Force Base.
This will be his last assignment, so the family looked to find a place to raise their two young sons, Carson and John. They chose a home on about eight acres just south of Burksville.
Soon after moving to Monroe County, Neiheisel decided to start a business she was inspired to create when her family lived in Oklahoma.
She had a friend who knew a foster child named Jay who had behavioral issues and wished to meet a horse.
Since she had horses, Neiheisel offered her animals and was amazed at the results.
“Jay was like a different kid than what she described,” Neiheisel recalled. “He followed directions, he worked, he helped me feed, he helped groomed. Just seeing his reaction to that horse was great and that experience was so magical for him. He talked about it for like a month.
“Just seeing the change I saw in him and how much that benefited him, I said ‘I have to do something like this.’”
So, when Travis got his orders and the family moved here, she started Agape Equine, located at 4636 Burkshire Lane in Waterloo.
The business offers horse riding lessons in both the English and western style for children ages 4 and up. Adults can also take lessons.
Neiheisel is working to get more involved with therapeutic work, too, as a physical therapist has been referring patients to Agape Equine and a counselor plans to start doing the same for trauma treatment this spring.
Some veterans have also started lessons.
Neiheisel, who works from home for a business in Texas, is now looking to take that to the next level with this event, which takes place Oct. 12 from 4:30-6:30 p.m.
The event is for children who have lost a parent or a sibling, have chronic illnesses or developmental disabilities.
It is not for children with behavioral issues, because Agape Equine does not have the resources for those people yet.
“This is total outreach for these families that have experienced terrible things so they can forget about that heaviness that comes with life sometimes for just a little while,” Neiheisel said.
In addition to dinner, the free event will include s’mores and an opportunity for children to meet and groom the multiple horses and mules Agape Equine has.
Not all the children can ride a horse because Agape Equine does not have the mobility equipment for kids with those issues, but there will be other activities like a sandbox they can participate in.
In addition to her experience with Jay, Neiheisel wanted to do this event because her father died when she as a child. He died on Oct. 11.
“I wanted to do something soon around that date,” she explained. “He always supported my dreams and my passions, too, so it’s one of those things to give back and honor that.”
Those interested in the services of Agape Equine should go to agapequine.com or email email@example.com for more information.
To RSVP for the event, email that same address.
Neiheisel said the event would prove beneficial to the target families, something she said anyone who has seen children around horses would know.
“There’s just something about being outside in creation and having that experience with a horse,” she said. “There’s just something therapeutic about it.”