Extension and Ag Research News


NDSU Bison Strides Program wins three regional awards

Bison Strides is recognized with the Equine of the Year, Equine Caretaker of the Year and Credentialed Professional of the Year awards from PATH International Region 6.

North Dakota State University’s Bison Strides Equine Assisted Services Program recently won three regional awards from the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International in Region 6, which encompasses centers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Bison Strides provides services for people with physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral and mental health diagnoses, partnering them with horses to meet individual goals.

Cutter is a 15-year old palomino quarter horse gelding who has spent the last six years helping individuals become physically stronger, grow in their confidence and find independence. He is one of 10 horses at Bison Strides and was named the 2024 PATH International Region 6 Equine of the Year. This award is given annually to a hard-working, wise equine who represents the heart of the equine-assisted services industry.

“We call Cutter our unicorn horse because he is so unique in his abilities to meet the needs of participants in every one of our programs,” says Erika Berg, Bison Strides program director and associate professor of animal sciences at NDSU.

Cutter is loaned to Bison Strides by Keith Johnson, a rancher from Sharon, North Dakota.

“Owning a horse like Cutter has been a blessing to me and my family,” Johnson says. “I’ve been fortunate the last few years to hear from families of people he has helped. It was emotional for me when I heard he had won this prestigious award. To have people I don’t even know recognize the value he has for the work he does is really special.”

Cutter’s riders and families have the best things to say about him.

Kelli and Daniel Leeman’s son, Teddy, began riding Cutter at age 4.

“Cutter is the reason that our child is physically so much stronger and willing to try difficult things,” Kelli Leeman says. “We cannot articulate how special Cutter is to our family. He is truly a treasure!”

Terry Heley says that Cutter has had a life-changing impact on her 21-year-old daughter MeKenna’s emotional intelligence, adding that riding and taking care of Cutter has given MeKenna a sense of pride.

Bison Strides participant Ellis Weiss says that Cutter has given her a sense of confidence and helped her not to feel afraid.

“Cutter makes me feel happy!” Weiss adds.

The PATH International Region 6 Equine Caretaker of the Year award honors an outstanding representative of the equine caretaker community. Bison Stride’s program assistant, Jessie Moe, was selected as the 2024 recipient of this award.

“Jessie is simply an incredible human being who recognizes the importance of giving outstanding care to our horses,” Berg says. “Without them, we have no program, and she works hard to ensure the horses are healthy and happy.”

Emily Dilliard oversees the equine-assisted learning program at Bison Strides and was selected as the 2024 PATH International Credentialed Professional of the Year. This award is given to individuals who are compassionate, creative teachers and leaders, and critical to a program’s success.

“As a school psychologist and dean of students at Explorer Academy, Emily has an exceptional understanding of social-emotional learning and the role horses can play in teaching these essential skills to youth,” Berg says. “We are grateful for the knowledge and enthusiasm she brings to this program area.”

Bison Strides will be participating in Giving Hearts Day on Thursday, Feb. 8, to raise funds that will help maintain the health and care of Cutter and his herd-mates, support program development and implementation, and provide financial assistance for participants in need. Bison Strides also raises dollars to provide equine assisted services for veterans free of charge. Learn more about Bison Strides on Facebook or Instagram, online at www.bisonstrides.org, or by contacting Erika Berg at erika.berg@ndsu.edu or 701-231-9611.

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Feb. 5, 2024

Source: Erika Berg, 701-231-9611, erika.berg@ndsu.edu

Editor: Elizabeth Cronin, 701-231-7881, elizabeth.cronin@ndsu.edu



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