Now more than ever, mental health should be part of our priority list. After all, looking after our well-being equates to love and respect for ourselves, and it’s beneficial to stay sound and balanced with the life challenges we face every day.
For more than two decades now, a horse therapeutic center in Bend, Oregon called Healing Reins has been helping horse lovers to keep their mental health in check through the power of our faithful field companion—the horse. Since its establishment in 1999, the facility has provided a positive, safe, and accepting place for people of all ages and abilities, bringing them strength, hope, confidence, and joy through horse-centered therapies.
The 20-acre farm houses an indoor and outdoor arena, a private mental health arena, round pens, and a small private trail system, where they have the freedom to run multiple services at the same time. “Our focus was therapeutic horsemanship. Since then, we have grown to be able to offer a well-rounded and diverse group of services to fit the ever-growing needs of our community,” executive director Polly Cohens tells POLO LADY.
“At Healing Reins, we believe that horses are uniquely powerful and that the skills and relationships we build with them are life-changing. Horses offer honest and immediate feedback to the world around them and do so in a way that is without judgment or resentment,” she shares. “You cannot lie to a horse about how you are feeling and still be successful, but a horse will not hold it against you if you do. As a result, working with a horse requires you to acknowledge how you truly are, learn to manage those feelings, but also learn that it is okay to come as you are. If that weren’t enough, they teach us to slow down, to breathe, and to listen.”
With the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International certified instructor staff and specially trained volunteers, each session with Healing Reins assures success and support for every individual, regardless of background or prior experience. What’s more, horses undergo training, too—ensuring that the horse is willing and able to do the job before accepting them into the herd.
Each member of their herd has their happiness plan, as the facility believes that these four-legged beasts are their own individuals. So yes, it’s not only humans who get their own share of treatments and therapy, as Healing Reins goes the extra mile in giving massages, stretching exercises, lesson breaks, and other enjoyable activities.
Their sought-after service, The Therapeutic Horsemanship, is powerful in aiding people with a wide variety of cognitive, emotional, physical, and developmental challenges, including autism, PTSD, depression, cerebral palsy, and everything in between. “Social interaction, building relationships, and participation in group activities are all part of the therapeutic process that we foster,” Polly adds.
Meanwhile, their new offering, called The Recreational Horsemanship, brings in fun, educational, and challenging horsemanship lessons, where participants are encouraged to learn at their own pace without feeling rushed or pressured.
Apart from these, they also offer horses in mental health counseling, therapy, or social work, which are emerging as effective experiential treatment techniques. “Clients get ‘outside of four walls’ and experience the connection between themselves and the natural world,” Polly explains. A collaboration with Treehouse Therapies led the pediatric occupational therapy service as well as pediatric and adult physical therapy that utilizes horses or hippotherapy.
“It feels so special to have such a hugely positive impact on Central Oregon. We are able to adapt our services and create new ones, to meet the needs of the individuals in our community. Our barn doors are a sign to all who come here that they are accepted, loved, and safe. The relationships built in our arenas are life-changing,” Polly muses. “In this sense, the most special thing about Healing Reins is not a thing at all. Rather, the most special about us are the people who come here and the people who have created such a kind and accepting community.”
Are you thinking of going on a visit? Check out their website to know more about Healing Reins at healingreins.org.
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Mariel Abanes is the Managing Editor of POLO LADY Magazine.