Teens work through pain by taming horses (video)

Troubled teens train horses

Equine assisted therapy for teens in trouble has been shown to aid those kids in overcoming the many issues they are coping with. As our own about us on our therapeutic programs state – horses reflect back the exact feelings that a human presents to them. When human interaction is too stressful, horses – along with trained equine therapists – provide a more effective route to healing. ~ HfH

From: Hampton Roads
By: Margaret Matray


Troubled teens train horses

Photo by Thé N. Pham of the The Virginian-Pilot

Steve Edwards and his riders leaned into the metal horse pen and pulled it from the mud.

December rain had pooled on the Smithfield farm, leaving a corner of the round enclosure mucky and thick. Riders wrestled the pen onto drier ground and raked wet hay from the dirt below.

Soon the pen would be ready.

Edwards – dressed in jeans and boots, a woven poncho slung over his shoulders – watched the riders work.

“We’re not going to rush anything,” he said.

Today, if all went well, Ashley Meyers would ride her colt for the first time.

For months she’d been preparing her horse – first rubbing his coat to show affection, then moving him around in the pen, finally easing a blanket and saddle onto his back.

Ashley didn’t think the ride would happen. Her horse had reared on his hind legs weeks earlier when she worked on despooking him by shaking a bag filled with plastic bottles, called a monster, all around him. Now, she thought, she’d be the ultimate monster.

But Edwards had confidence. A good horse trainer is calm and collected, just like Ashley, and able to show she’s in charge while making the animal feel safe. It’s a relationship built on trust, and this horse trusted her.

Edwards had matched many kids with horses over the years, seen them gentle wild mustangs.

He’d seen the kids change, too.


Edwards is an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Isle of Wight County, where he prosecutes nearly all cases involving juveniles. Kids who’ve been abused often clam up when questioned by nurses and cops.

But they talk to Edwards.

Ashley was 17 when she met him in 2012. He was sunburned, rugged-looking.

“He didn’t look like a lawyer,” she said. “He looked like he needed to be out in a field doing something.”

She had reported her stepfather for sexual abuse, notifying police after he took out his cellphone to try to record it, she said. At that moment, she said, she knew she had him.

As Edwards often does with young witnesses, he brought Ashley to his farm, Mill Swamp Indian Horses, where open pastures provide a more relaxed environment for talking about cases.

At Mill Swamp, roosters crow and an ever-growing population of piglets roams free. A 700-pound hog named Amos eats from his trough, and a dog named Lydia scrounges for food scraps near the tack shed.

About 40 horses – including mustangs from Corolla, the Shackleford Banks of North Carolina and the western U.S. – live at the farm.

That day, Ashley wanted to walk to the edges of the lot and hear the horses’ stories – horses with names like Manteo, Tradewind and Red Feather.

There was Comet, part Appaloosa and part Arabian, the first horse Edwards trained using natural horsemanship, an approach in which the trainer uses the animal’s body language instead of subjugation to communicate.

And there was Edward Teach, a Corolla stallion that came to Mill Swamp after a wild hog attacked him, biting flesh from his neck.

As they walked through the pastures, Edwards turned around, and Ashley was gone.

He spotted her in the distance, her arms wrapped around a half Corolla, half western mustang: Bear Coat. That surprised Edwards.

What’s his story? Ashley asked.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
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