equine therapy helps teenage girl

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Can you imagine being nine years old and watching your parents drive away forever?

Lacy was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a baby. She lived with her adoptive parents until, when she was nine years old, they decided they no longer wanted her and gave her up to the state.

Lacy spent the next several years in foster care.

The angry, heartbroken little girl was spiraling fast after her parents’ abandonment. She had low self-esteem and struggled to trust people. She began trying to fill the heartbreak through inappropriate relationships. Her behavior began to escalate.

Lacy was fifteen when she was living with Cornerstone Cottage in North Idaho, a wonderful organization that offers residential care for girls in foster care who have experienced trauma.

Idaho Youth Ranch has a collaboration with Cornerstone that allows us to offer the girls living there Equine Therapy to help them process early childhood trauma such as loss, abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and drug use in the home.

Lacy had been participating in Equine Therapy with Idaho Youth Ranch for several months. Her primary goals were to learn team building, how to form healthy relationships, and how to process her trauma.

One day, Lacy approached her therapist and asked if she could lead a group. Her Idaho Youth Ranch therapist was delighted that she would take such an initiative. For a young woman with low self-esteem and abandonment issues, this was a huge step forward.

After weeks of preparing, Lacy's big day finally arrived. Her therapist, Amanda, gave the group one rule: the group was to be mindfully non-judgmental.

One young lady in the group who had gone through significant trauma as a child, and generally did not actively participate in group sessions, noticed two of the horses did not seem to get along. The young woman said, “The horses aren’t getting along and I get it. My life sucks too. I am going to keep the horses separated so they behave while you lead your group.”

That young woman kept the horses occupied the entire hour while Lacy led her group.

Emboldened by her newfound ally, Lacy told the girls, “Some of these horses are just like us. They’re rescues and someone saved them.”

Lacy went on to tell the girls how to make the horses feel safe and then set down some ground rules. Lacy instructed the girls that they were to make the horses feel respected, safe, and comfortable.

Lacy’s rules were simple.

“Approach them slowly so they won’t be scared. Speak to them gently and kindly. Keep a hand on them when you are guiding them. Use a gentle hold so they don’t hurt. Kiss them so they know you love them.”

Lacy taught her peers how to catch, halter, and groom a horse that day. As her peers and teary-eyed therapist applauded her success, however, Lacy also realized that she had identified what it takes to have a healthy relationship with another person. Her experience teaching her group that day helped her remember that she deserves respect and should not have to be afraid in her relationships.

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