ALEXANDRIA — When iconic Newark coach Ruth Sunkle was lending her wisdom to Kathryn King, it was back in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Since reconnecting about 10 years ago, however, it has been King doing the mentoring. Along with a little help from their friends.
The “friends” in this case are horses, specifically, the healing Nokota therapy equines King has at her Valhalla Hill Farm near Alexandria. One of those horses, Leoti, starred in the recently-released independent movie “Adeline,” about a heroic medicine horse that saved 12 lives during a tornado at Serendipity Stables above Marysville in Union County. While Sunkle’s horse, Daisy, is not a Nokota, she also has a prominent role in the film, most of which was shot on King’s farm and in Licking County.
“Adeline” was directed by renowned indie film maker Greg James and written by Sam Lewis. James grew up in Charm, Ohio in Amish country, has ties to Johnstown and lives in Columbus. He used primarily Columbus-area actors and local locations, including Johnstown’s Main Street, Dashing Diner Uptown, Hair After salon and village offices. Granville, Utica, Alexandria, Nashport and the barn of Sunkle’s cousin, Bret Wilkins, near Glenford in Perry County are also listed in the film’s credits.
But the inspirational movie, which is currently playing on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Spectrum, Direct TV, Google Play, Dish and Voodoo, couldn’t have been made without the help of King, Sunkle and the horses. About 75 percent of it was shot at Valhalla Hill Farm. It was actually made in 2020 during COVID, which made it even more challenging, and was not released until this month.
“I did all of the location scouting for the movie,” said King, a 1981 Newark graduate who ran track, and set records, for Sunkle. “Ruth and I jumped in head first. I hosted people for the costume department, re-wrote some of the script and worked with the editor. I don’t know what I would have done without Ruth.” King also appeared in the film briefly, as Angela, and Sunkle also makes an appearance, as does King’s mom, Marge.
“We got credit in the movie as horse wranglers, and I was basically her go-for and assistant,” said Sunkle, who coached track, softball, basketball and volleyball at Newark before retiring, and still officiates volleyball and basketball. “We got the horses ready to be on call.”
“Adeline” tells the true story of the healing horse and her owner who bought Serendipity Stables near West Mansfield in Union County, and immediately had an impact. Adeline provided successful therapy for a local boy with autism and soon, people with other disabilities came to be healed.
However, during a healing session in the early 2000s, a tornado struck. Adeline herded 12 people up against a retaining wall, saving their lives from the destruction, but shattered her leg in the process. The veterinarian advised that Adeline be put down, but there was a slim chance she could survive with an expensive, albeit dangerous, operation. After a story appeared in the Columbus Dispatch, over $15,000 was raised, and Adeline lived through three more years of healing.
King’s Nokota horse, Leoti, played Adeline, while Sunkle’s Palomino, Daisy, played Yankee, which was bought as a companion for Adeline. The movie really hits home for King, who has worked with horses and people since the 1980s, with it eventually evolving into the healing horses.
“This movie is really about my life,” King said. “I want to be able to share how serendipitously divine this has been.”
In 1996, King hooked up with Licking County Juvenile Court to provide therapy through horses, for mild autism, eating disorders, sexual abuse and anger issues. Then, she met Leo Kuntz, who breeded Nokota therapy horses in North and South Dakota with history dating back to the Battle of Little Big Horn. He gifted her with Odin, originally from Iceland, who recently died at age 36. The rest is history, as she purchased Valhalla Hill Farm 12 years ago, using wood from the land to help build the house.
“When he (Kuntz) died (in 2018), I wanted to carry on his dream, of making these horses, therapy horses,” King said. “Not all horses are medicine horses. It takes me a minimum of seven months, to see what the horse has to offer.”
All five of her horses were born in North Dakota. Leoti,10, survived a terrible situation in Kentucky. Tatonka, 14, was struck by lightning prior to coming to Ohio. Black Elk is 12, Tall Wolf is 7 and Finn rounds out the newest additions, who were just integrated into the herd a week ago.
“I didn’t buy my first horse until I was 60, and she’s a mentor for my horse,” Sunkle said. “She’s a great mentor. I’ve found out why communicating with horses is so important. You are listening to the horse.”
“You learn a lot about language, watching these horses,” King said. “They have so much to teach humans. Communicating, being authentic, not taking on any hate or jealousy. They’re what’s pure, honest and true.”
King operates her farm on historic ground, formerly home of the Shawnee and Hopewell. “There are some bizarre artifacts here,” she said. “In 1760, there was a battle between the Iroquois and Shawnee. What better place to bring people for healing?”
A 91-year-old man from Missouri came to Valhalla for five days for healing, after losing his wife. He heard about it on Facebook. The farm hosts authors of horse books, and artists wanting to teach how to draw horses. There are yoga and meditation sessions, owing to the spiritual nature of the place. But the healing sessions remain the focal point (website www.medicinehorsepreservation.love, e-mail [email protected] or call 740-973-4889).
“This property does not belong to me,” King said. “I’m just a caretaker. Wherever we live, it doesn’t belong to us. We’re all just caretakers.”
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Licking County flavor, horses spice ‘Adeline’ movie about heroic equine
- This Oak Cliff Salon Wants Latina Beauty Professionals to Blossom and Thrive
- Man calls out Admiralty barber who allegedly turned him away because he 'couldn't speak Chinese', Singapore News
- Redken Announces First Annual National Hair Gloss Day
- 14 Best Brushes for Curly Hair of 2022, According to Testers
- Love Island’s Chloe Burrows reveals her REAL hair after ditching extensions