“Horses never lie.”
- Bridget Kinnell, Heartland’s Horse Program Director
Heartland Ranch is a working ranch that uses horses as a catalyst to bring about positive change. The horse program at the Heartland Girls’ Ranch focuses not just on learning about horses, but also on what horses can teach us about ourselves. The girls’ learning and experience comes in many different ways. The horses are used daily to address problem areas, attitudes and behaviors from a perspective that is new to our clients, that of the authority figure. Our clients are put in a role of on-going responsibility as “parent” and caregiver to the horse, the “child”. This role reversal offers our clients remarkable insight into problem areas and ultimately invites and encourages girls to make dramatic changes in their approach to life. The girls grow in their self-esteem as they gain skills and experience success with horse programming.
Every girl that comes to the Ranch is assigned her “own” horse that she is responsible for. Girls are paired with a horse that will best benefit their unique personality and circumstances. Each girl is then taught the basics of horse care, which includes feeding, grooming, barn and stall maintenance.
Each girl has the opportunity to be instructed in riding skills. We have two staff that are certified to teach the ” Certified Horseman’s Association” riding lessons levels 1-3. This is an organization that is recognized nation wide and allows a girl who has tested out at the various levels a status of skills at stables around the country. Girls at the ranch are instructed in the levels and must pass a written and riding test to move to higher levels. The girls at the ranch have many opportunities to practice their skills year round in an indoor arena, trail rides and horse camping.
The girls at the ranch have many opportunities to participate in horse competitions through out the year. The girls will practice various games in preparation for the horse shows put on in our indoor arena. In these shows the girls compete against each other and occasionally staff (Staff vs. Girls shows). These are special times for the girls to show off the skills they have gained to their families, county workers and ranch staff. In the summer the girls are involved in the local saddle club and participate in horse shows in the community.
The girls have opportunities through out the year to assist and help teach riding to local community members. They can “give back” to the community by assisting developmentally challenged students as side walkers and encouragers. The girls gain in their self-esteem as they can teach younger children skills they have learned during community lessons.
Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association is an organization that is dedicated to improving the mental health of individuals, groups and families. The ranch has staff trained in EAGALA and uses these skills as a form of “therapy” to address various issues with the girls as individuals and in groups. A girl and her family can also take part in the various exercises used in these sessions. At the ranch EAGALA sessions are done twice a month with each “wing” to promote good communication, working together, and to deal with any issues the wing is having. Girls will also work individually on their issues using the EAGALA lessons.
Heartland Ranch has a drill team that participates in various community parades and event throughout the summer. Girls practice parade walking and formations to show as they participate in these events.
Girls that have acquired the necessary skills have opportunity to assist in the training of horses. The horse and the girl both benefit through out this process as the girls gain much insight into their own behavior as they are working the horse.