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Hope thru Hooves: Treating mental health with horses

When it comes to horses, each one has a different personality. At Hope thru Hooves in Pueblo County, each horse has a unique job: being a teacher.

The non-profit uses horses and a number of different tasks to teach kids and adults with behavioral issues valuable life lessons. 

“Horses don’t judge, but they do respond,” said Hope thru Hooves founder Kim Warner. “If you are acting wild and running around, the horses are going to respond to that. Now, they aren’t going to hold my behavior against me; if I calm down, they’ll be happy to have a relationship with me. But I have to change me to have that relationship.”

Kim Warner started the nonprofit as a different way to treat children while she was a paraprofessional in North Mesa Elementary's behavior program. She worked with children who are known for having outbursts, cussing, and couldn't fully control their own emotions. 

When the school district approved equestrian therapy as an alternative route to treating the children, it wasn't long before Warner saw the impact the horses had on the children. 

"All of our fifth-graders who graduated the program were in school. They still had struggles, but they are able to assimilate to the classroom. They can play sports, and some of them are even on the honor roll," said Warner. 

Since 2013, Hope thru Hooves has expanded, even completing construction on an indoor facility so they no longer have to cancel sessions due to weather. 

Warner says she isn't a therapist. However, the relationships she helps build in her program between human and horse can go a long way.

Student Kadince Medina has been coming back to Hope Thru Hooves for months. Medina has built a strong relationship with the horse Sappy, who has the ability to seemingly eat nonstop. She says she’d much rather be at Hope thru Hooves than talking to someone in an office about her problems.

“This place gives walls where they feel they can be more open to talk,” said Scott Warner, Kim's husband and fellow founder.

Scott says small tasks like brushing the coats, leading the horses, or getting them to gallop can be major breakthroughs for these kids who aren't entirely familiar with horses. 

Ultimately, Hope Thru Hooves is about taking lessons learned with horses like Sappy, and bringing them outside to the classroom, playground, and their homes.

“The lessons remind me that everybody goes through rough times," said Medina. "The horses just help me through those rough times.”

“This is changing their lives it’s keeping them in school," said Kim Warner. "Giving them the opportunity to grow into what God gave them to be.”

If you would like to learn more about the Hope Thru Hooves' mission, and want to know how you can help them grow you can visit their website here. 

Absolutely Colorado

Dan Beedie

Dan is a bureau reporter based out of Pueblo.