Freedom Horses- Healing Hearts with Horses
The latest blog by our friend Dutch Henry.
One in four women in America have been the victims of abuse. Mental, physical or sexual. Many all three. That is a staggering and sobering statistic, isn’t it? Betsi Bixby has long wanted to find a way to help these women heal. Being a lifelong horsewoman she is well aware of the healing spirit of the horse and she had seen the wonders of equine assisted therapy. It was at a benefit ride for Morning Star Ranch, a therapeutic riding center devoted to helping inner city at risk children that a plan began to take shape. When she saw the wondrous change come over the children at Morning Star Ranch, she asked herself, “Why can’t we do this for battered women?”
Betsi knew she would need a reliable conduit to reach women who were enduring abuse or had been abused and were unable to let go. Sadly, often getting over the abuse is harder than getting out of the abuse. She approached “Freedom House,” a marvelous organization devoted to helping battered women and girls cope with the wounds their abuse left them. Betsi’s plan to use horses and let the women feel the healing powers in a horse’s heart was received with so much enthusiasm at Freedom House they started working on plans to make it happen right away. A dedicated group of about 12 women quickly banded together to make the idea a reality.
Many times battered women will turn inward, put up a hard exterior. A problem often seen in typical therapy is that battered women and girls learn to move on, sort of, but often don’t learn how to open their hearts again. That’s where Betsi’s plan and the spirit of the horse come in. Betsi knows the spirit of the a horse can open their hearts again.
Within weeks of her meeting with Freedom House a pilot program was established. The first participant went to Tammy Sronce’s, Echo Ranch in Weatherford, TX and was introduced her to her horse, Memphis. “It was overwhelming,” Betsi said. “She stood in the barn and looked at the horse, just looked at him. Then she walked over and touched him. We could almost see the comfort flow from Memphis to the girl.”
In the weeks that followed more women came from Freedom House to Echo Ranch, and the visits began to develop a structure. The women and girls were introduced to a horse and simply allowed to absorb the horse’s spirit. Everything is the participant’s choice from brushing the horse to a supervised trail ride. Except for matters of safety, the participants are never told what to do. For many of them it is the first time in years that they were allowed to, or had the desire to make a choice. “We can see them gain confidence from the horses, as they interact with them. They relax while brushing a horse, sometimes they’ll hug and kiss the horse. Often they’ll tell us it was the first time in a long time that they didn’t think of their problems,” Betsi said. “There’s a special magic in a horse’s spirit that connects and can help heal. Their spirit is the heart of our program. We just put them together.” Betsi’s program adopted the name “Freedom Horses,” in honor of the work they do at Freedom House.
Freedom Horses put together a comprehensive, step-by-step plan that anyone who has the desire to help heal battered hearts can use with their own horses at their own home. “We call it, Freedom Horses Success Kit,” Betsi said. Everything is charted out from how to select and train volunteers to suggestions of activities. “For instance, one thing we have found that really helps is involving an equine massage therapist,” Betsi explained. “Many abused women do not want to be touched. But something happens when they watch the relaxation come over a horse during a massage. It’s often the first time in years they can relate to touching without fear.”
Freedom Horses’ mission is to help women gain courage, compassion and confidence through interactions with horses and their volunteer owners. Organized in June, 2011 they already have a network of volunteers ready to welcome women to their barns to experience the healing powers of the horse, and two other women’s shelters ready to test out the program in their towns.
Freedom Horses started in Weatherford, Texas and is expanding to all states, so whether you are in Texas, Maine, California or anywhere in between, and you have a horse who is willing to help heal hearts, reach out to Freedom Horses. They will help you help. To be start your own Freedom Horses program, become volunteer or sponsor, visit their website www.freedomhorses.org or call Tammy Sronce at – 940-859-6512. You can help heal hearts.
Dutch Henry is a freelance writer and novelist who resides in Virginia with his wife, Robin, of 35 years, horse, dogs, cats and chickens. You can reach Dutch at firstname.lastname@example.org . He would love to hear from you. His novel “We’ll Have the Summer” is available on Amazon and Dutch’s website www.dutchhenryauthor.com .