Teen Group 1: Depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, aggression, suicidal, fear, abuse, neglect, anger, self harm.

Teen Group 2: Confident, engaged, well-behaved, respectful, friendly, talkative, gentle, calm, introspective.

Am I describing two different groups of kids? Nope. This is the same group of teenagers; only in group 2, they are surrounded by loving therapists and volunteers who are totally invested in their engagement and success. And most importantly, they are paired with a 1200lb animal that doesn’t care about their history or diagnosis. This animal only cares about the current moment. The animal’s questions are: how will you treat me? Do I respect your body language? Do you make me fearful or make me trust?


And just like that, a miracle occurs. A miracle. In mere minutes.

Kids who have never been given a reason to trust anyone, begin to trust their volunteer and horse.

Kids who have not been given the opportunity to speak their truth are in command of the movement of a very large prey animal.

Kids who have impulse control issues begin to manage their energy so that their horse will stay calm.


I can’t explain it, and I don’t know how to even begin to try. You have to see it to believe it. I stand in a group of 8 kids and am in complete disbelief that they’re even in a program that works with the emotionally damaged. They seem so healthy, so in tune, so far beyond the maturity of other kids their age.


For an hour and a half, they are whole. Their horse trusts them because they are trustworthy. These kids rise to the occasion…EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.


I can’t help but think about all of the kids who are drowning in schools and families and foster homes, completely misunderstood and disengaged. I can’t help but wish they all had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger, something that requires them to rise and shine and be an amazing person.


Please consider donating to a program for kids in your area – 5 weeks with a horse may mean the difference between life and death, between brokenness and wholeness.

Check out this video about the Changing Leads program. Bring a tissue.