“What are you doing here, midget?”
The class bully questioned me in 5th grade. “Still haven’t grown?” he asks in 6th grade. “Can you even reach the top shelf?” he continues in 7th grade. Now, I’m in 8th grade. My self-confidence is smaller than my height, and my anxiety is so tall I can’t contain it. But the hurt from being the last pick at basketball practice vanishes when a horse walks up to me. I am wanted!
The majority of mental health disorders onset during adolescence. In youth, between the ages of 13-18, 32% are diagnosed with anxiety disorders, 19% are diagnosed with behavior disorders and 14% are diagnosed with mood disorders. These numbers show that America is in the midst of a significant crisis.
Relentless addiction ruled my mom’s life.
On a cold winter’s night, the drugs forced her to abandon me at a homeless shelter. She chose addiction over her children. Now I am nine, and I live with my grandmother. Doctors diagnosed me as depressed, delayed, defiant and unattached. At the ranch, the diagnoses that make me feel alone and damaged fade away as the horses nuzzle up to me. Here, I am not a patient; I am a person! Here, I feel chosen.
For those on their path to treatment of mental health disorders or trauma, horses are excellent partners. As participants interact with horses in a variety of activities like grooming, walking and equine games, their psychological health improves. Our horses provide instant feedback on what the participant perceives the horse’s behaviors to mean in relation to themselves. They are living metaphors, and what they reveal is beautiful.
Miracles happen in sessions. Kids in death’s valley are offered greener pastures, and we love getting to be a part of it.
– Anna Myers, Program Director, Shepherd Youth Ranch
This post is a part of our People Matter series. Read more here.