Horses, Healing, Hope - Catholic Rural Life

Horses, Healing, Hope

Jessica Parker • September 13, 2016

Rural Outreach and Ministry

Editor’s Note: This week’s Storytellers comes from Jessica Parker in Colorado.  Her story is an amazing reminder that God created all things to help draw up to Him, from the lowliest plant, to the majestic horse.


He will cover you with His mane and, tucked in the curve of His neck,

you will find refuge.

Psalm 91:4

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-57-53-amMy task was to paint the way I saw myself. My canvas? The smooth chestnut side of the horse. My mind immediately began forming the picture that I could not look past. All I could see was a butterfly, one wing broken, limping on her side across the ground in a vain attempt at regaining flight; a fragile, stricken drop of life on the ground after an ephemeral dance on the wing. My mentor, coming up behind me, did not see a wounded butterfly. All he saw was a phoenix. At this word, I stepped back and realized that my image had merged with the one from the task for the other side of the horse, to paint an image of how God sees me. My butterfly had risen from the ashes of my life as a phoenix.

Welcome to The Son and Reins Ranch, an equine-assisted ministry center in Franktown, CO that uses experiential learning with rescued horses for transformational personal spiritual growth. In essence, we are in the business of walking with the wounded towards a greater relationship with Christ through the healing power of the Holy Spirit. When we walk, we hand the reins directly back to He who alone has the power to heal. Each day, we pray for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the willingness to open ourselves completely to His will as we acknowledge our weaknesses and wounds and ask for His help, His love, and His mercy. What emerges each and every time is truly a phoenix rising from the ashes.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-03-12-pmAt The Son and Reins, we use Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) activities to help our participants self-identify challenges in their lives, especially those emotional and behavioral troubles that emerge from the wounds of life experiences. We create a safe and positive environment that facilitates the discovery of what has inhibited the participant to become all that God intends – to live a life of purpose, hope, and relationship. How does this happen? Step out into the pasture and say hello to God’s four-legged assistants and be ready for positive, life-altering transformation at the hands of the Holy Spirit. Oh, and in case you wanted to get more out of each session, be prepared for walking a deeper path of faith and trust in God as He reveals His love and compassion for you through His horses.

Once you step out, your life will never be the same.

Why horses? Horses have a powerful effect on people because their natural, instinctive behavior and senses guarantee safety and survival in a herd. Because the horse is a prey animal, it must be keenly aware of its surroundings and respond quickly and appropriately to new things to survive. They quickly sense the difference between a calm, non-threatening posture; an anxious or fearful posture; and a contradictory posture when a person is trying to behave in a way that is inconsistent with what they are feeling internally. Once they sense where a person is coming from, they immediately respond in a transparent way, asking us to reflect on how we are approaching them with our bodies, actions, and emotions. We often believe that we have to hide negative feelings under a mask of calm, confidence, and positive communication. Horses ask us to set aside the mask and be present with them in the moment, just as God comes to meet us where we are, rather than demanding that we meet Him where He is.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-06-36-pmHorses are neither mirrors nor mimes, they are teachers! When a horse senses confident leadership qualities in a person, they will be willing to follow only after they discover the necessary qualities of respect and trust. Their world is not directed by dishonesty, judgment, bias, manipulation, or control. A trusted leader is a safe leader, an open and communicative friend is a trusted friend. Behavior that detracts from trust and relationship is not rewarded nor tolerated. Horses teach us how to be better communicators, more effective and respected leaders, and more consistent and authentic individuals. In short, horses help us to grow closer to God, and to fill the shoes that He created our lives to fill, by becoming the best version of ourselves. Who knew that God gave us these creatures to help us be who we were created to be!

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-07-15-pmBy focusing on the interaction with the horse rather than on one’s self, defense mechanisms that become a part of our daily lives when we are wounded fall away, revealing the sensitive rawness of how we are, rather than who we are in God. But unlike when another person points out our faults and weaknesses, the horses are genuine and non-judgmental, showing us, rather than telling us, how our behavior and emotions affect them and the herd. We cannot fake it with a horse or with God. Thankfully, both are willing to meet us right where we are, to offer us acceptance, truth, hope, and unconditional love.

Horses can teach us about:

  • Genuine trustscreen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-09-27-pm
  • Unconditional love
  • Healing
  • Forgiveness
  • Authenticity
  • Obedience
  • Boundaries
  • Respect
  • Communication 

So if a person is struggling with:

  • Personal issues
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Trauma
  • Grief and loss
  • Lack of confidence or trust
  • Anger
  • Low self-esteem
  • Substance abuse recovery
  • ADHD
  • Stress
  • Burnout
  • Interpersonal relationships

working with horses is an effective way for God’s good purposes to be brought out and for His healing and hope to shine through.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-11-01-pmThe Son and Reins Ranch is certified in Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) through Greg Kersten’s O.K. Corral and through Elaine Averill’s faith-based Equine Assisted Learning. In our sessions, God works through the horses, not the facilitators, to bring about effective change in a person’s life. These changes may include: increased self-awareness, more effective communication, healthier relationships, emotional healing, expanded perspectives on self and others, and a greater understanding of one’s potential and purpose. We customize our sessions to best meet the needs of individuals, couples, families or groups of any kind. Through experiential learning activities with the horses, we offer a fun way to fulfillment and a hands-on approach to healing. We also provide consulting services for those wishing to begin their own EAL program with on-site support, mentorship, and training to assist those answering the call to serve through the healing power of horses.

Check us out:


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