Woodward, Okla. —
WHITE HORSE PROGRAMS
The girls who live at White Horse Ranch are supervised 24 hours a day by licensed and certified staff, Smith said.
Young women in the program receive 45 hours a week of therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, rational-emotive behavioral therapy, and reality therapy among other therapeutic models. The ranch is certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.
The ranch employes nearly 20 full and part time employees, including licensed professional counselors, licensed alcohol and drug counselors an equine specialist, life coaches and chemical dependency technicians, she said.
WHO CAN COME TO THE RANCH
Cases range from mild problems with behavior and experimentation with drugs and alcohol to deeply disturbing events in their lives, such as young women who have been traumatized by rape, incest and have even been forced to witness murders in some cases, Smith said.
In many cases, young women who have gone on with life after the ranch, still call the ranch staff to update them on their progress and refer to it as home, said outreach coordinator Hope Smith.
Since 2007, more than 250 adolescent girls have been treated at the facility, where one of their primary partners in their personal recovery is a horse, Smith said.
Hope Smith and Tammie Smith met recently with the Woodward News at White Horse Ranch around evening feeding time.
Nearby, with halters and ropes in hand, each of the seven girls currently residing there led their individual horse partner to its own feed bucket.
AND A HORSE LED THEM
Early in their stay at the ranch, girls are encouraged to pick a horse who will be their partner throughout their stay, Smith said.
With help from Equine Specialist Brandi Miller the girls learn basic horse care and handling skills.
Horses assist in therapy in many different ways, Smith said.
"The thing is, usually, the girls will choose a horse with a personality that is a lot like themselves and that is where the bond begins," Smith said.
Working with therapeutic horses provides individuals and families with honest, non-judgemental insight when working through life problems, Hope Smith said.
"Therapeutic horses quickly become non-verbal, 'mirrors', revealing deeper root issues more quickly than other forms of therapy," she said.
On this particular day, new girl, "Sandy" (not her real name) sat in the grass quietly, seeming to contemplate her situation. Only there a day, "Sandy" has not yet picked out her horse and is still adjusting, Smith said.
Life on a ranch, away from home and their friends, is hard for anyone, Smith said.
"Our goal is to let them begin to feel safe and secure," Smith said. "It's so interesting to watch them as the days go by and they begin to feel more safe and things just start coming out."
As evening chores draw to a close, other girls seem to display just what Smith talks about.
Those who obviously have chosen their horse move about their evening chores and are more upbeat, active and clearly connected with their animals.
Another young woman who has only been at the facility for two weeks uses a shovel to "muck" the horse pen for more Opportunity To Learn-Positive (OTL-Positive) points.
The points help the young women earn simple privileges and erase negative points, she said.
The young woman walked briskly in her knee high boots within the horse pen, attacking horse manure piles with gusto. She tells the story of coming to White Horse Ranch just two weeks earlier.
"When I got here, I didn't know I was coming and it took me a while, but I know now, I need to be here and start working on things," she said.
Still, another young woman had little to say and just remained focused on her horse.
That is the point of this part of the program, said Hope Smith.
"When they are with their horses out her, they are not allowed to talk of other things," Hope Smith said. "This is a time when they can really be present because the horses require their full attention."