BYRON CENTER, Mich., (April 18, 2014) — Eight years ago, Lisa Carter had the idea to create a “therapy ranch”, helping hurting children and horses at the same time. The result was H.U.G.S. Ranch, which is modeled after a ranch in Oregon, called Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch.
The ranch strives to provide a “faith-based, non-threatening, peaceful environment where children with a variety of needs and rescued horses can help heal each other.”
Carter told FOX 17 News the programs, which service children ages 5-17, are completely free.
“We’ve had some [children] that cut, we have autistic children that come, bi-polar, anger management, sensory processing, Asperger’s… Quite a variety,” said Carter. “We’re not therapists… but we have a heart to work with these children.”
Participants come to the ranch for a session once a week, for four weeks. During that time, they learn how to groom and ride the horses.
“They do a lot of bareback riding, they’ll ride forward, backwards, on their bellies,” said Carter. “It’s all feeling and getting to know their emotions…It brings them out of thinking about things that are bothering them, or their limitations.”
Many of the horses also come from troubled backgrounds, and have suffered from previous abuse or neglect.
“The children can relate,” she explained. “They feel like they’re really helping the horses…but in the meantime, what they don’t realize is, that they’re being helped themselves because they’re building self-confidence and self-esteem.”
Carter said as many as 200 children attended sessions at the ranch last summer and even more are expected for sessions in 2014. Seeing the difference in the kids once they complete their time at H.U.G.S Ranch is all the confirmation Carter needs to continue.
“When I see those kids come and I hear parents say my kid hasn’t smiled in a year and they’re out there beaming and smiling, it’s the joy that keeps me going,” she said. “They give so much love back to me that it keeps me going.”
H.U.G.S. Ranch relies on donations and gifts to run. The ranch is also in need of volunteers.
To learn more about donating, or the facility’s programs, click here.
Carter is also asking community members to come out and take part in the upcoming “Blessing of the Ranch”. The event is set for May 31st, at 10 a.m.