VERMILION, Ohio — A farm in northeast Ohio is providing a unique retreat using horses to help build health, happiness and trust.

What You Need To Know

  • There are five horses at Sunnyside Farm: Dude, Oreo, Thunder, Bentley and Cheerio

  • Most of the animals were rescued and are no longer ridden

  • Sunnyside hosts immersive five-hour experiences for individuals and groups in leadership roles in all facets of life

“Our retreat experience is based on my life, our herd and our personal story on the farm,” said Mike Gocsik, the president of Sunnyside Farm.

Four years ago, Gocsik bought his farm.

He said he had horses and an idea.

“To share the gifts that our horses and this property have given our family and to really share that to make our community a better place,” he said.

When Gocsik’s children grew up, they stopped riding so he transformed his 5-acre family farm in Vermilion into a place for horse-assisted retreats. 

The new business venture was a perfect fit for the horses and Gocsik, who is a leadership development and fundraising consultant.

“Horses tend to be scared of everything so their natural defense is to run away from danger. And to earn a horse's trust takes a lot of time, takes a lot of effort and that’s like when we are working with humans and in the corporate culture and nonprofit world. If your people don’t trust you, you're not going be very successful leading them,” he said.

Sunnyside Farm offers a special experience for individuals and corporate retreats with horses.

Gocsik believes working with animals helps people develop leadership and communications skills. 

“We start with the basic grooming of the horse so the horse gets to know them a little bit better; how they talk, their smell, how they stand and then we slowly go into a leading; just walking the horses around the arena and eventually we go to going through the obstacles,” said Gocsik.  

The horses are mostly rescues and are retired from being ridden so they’ll spend the rest of their days helping people through life’s journey.