Being a teenager can be tough. Remember high school?
But if you grew up with horses, or have a teenaged child who rides, you KNOW that a horse can make the process easier.
Horses don’t judge you, and they never, ever lie.
They’ll give you their all, and ask very little in return.
They’re patient listeners who will never share your secrets with anybody else.
Their strong shoulders absorb buckets of tears.
Their soft breath in your hair and velvet noses on your cheek make the rest of the world melt away.
They can turn a horrible-awful day into moments of pure joy.
I have many friends whose horses got them through some very tough times. Some will tell you their horses saved their lives.
For these reasons and many more, we feel privileged here at The Horse Sanctuary to share our horses with the young clients from Simcoe County’s only homeless youth shelter, Youth Haven.
Consider that 80% of youth who are classified as homeless have ended up on the street because they’re running away from an unbearable situation at home: domestic violence, neglect, physical or sexual abuse. If they’ve ended up at Youth Haven, it’s because they have absolutely nowhere else to go. This amazing organization helps hundreds of kids between 16 and 21 years of age every year, and we are honoured by their trust.
Since last fall, Youth Haven has brought groups of young men and women to our barn once a week to tap into that “horse magic” we like to spread around. They learn to groom, tack up, lead and ride the horses. They support and encourage each other, helping “newbies” get over their fears. When they graduate to riding off-lead for the first time, or learn to trot, it’s an accomplishment that lights up their faces.
Youth Haven’s counselors tell us they notice a difference in the kids. They’re genuinely happier in the days after riding. They look forward to coming back, and encourage other youth to try it because of the experience they’ve had. Riding has “opened up positive interactions between at risk youth,” Youth Haven’s Gord Bones explains, “encouraging one another to try it because of the fun they’ve had. The program has given the youth the opportunity to grow and teach them responsibility which are life skills that will help them in their futures.”
When people have so little to smile about, we consider every smile a gift. Thanks, Youth Haven, for bringing us these most precious gifts.