Seymour nonprofit helping people through equine therapy, programs

The facility in Seymour uses horses to help people with disabilities, at-risk kids and victims of violence.
Published: Oct. 16, 2019 at 7:29 PM EDT
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SEYMOUR, Ind. (WAVE) – "I think it's needed all around. And I don't think you realize the need until you're working with the different populations we serve," said Calli Johnson, Founder and Executive Director at Reins to Recovery.

Tucked away off Highway 31 in Seymour, Reins to Recovery is often a quiet space. The horses move slowly, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find another herd as eager to please as the ones living here.

“We have horses that will come up and wrap their neck, like they just know that you need a hug that day,” Johnson said.

These horses work hard, helping those with disabilities as well as victims of violence and at-risk kids at schools through psychotherapy and learning programs.

“Some, the successes happen pretty quickly, others have been riding with us for years,” Johnson said.

“It’s pretty amazing to see,” said Amber Payne, a teacher at Bartholomew Consolidated Schools. Payne has spent years teaching young students with emotional disabilities.

Her kids have seen such a success, Payne said it’s hard to remember a time that the kids weren’t coming here to grow.

The horses at Reins to Recovery working with students like Paynes', helping them deal with past-trauma with behavioral or therapeutic treatment.

“You can see them learning, you can see them taking away skills and then, to go back to school and see them applying skills or applying concepts that I watch them practice out here with the horses is just remarkable,” said Bobby Van Horn, coordinator of behavioral services at Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation.

“They get to have a chance to learn about trust, empathy, respect, all the things that can kind of go along with being around these amazing animals,” Johnson said.

For riders like Danielle Guffey, a little boost up is all she needs. Cerebral palsy can make many tasks for her tough, but difficult, work here has helped improve that.

Coming to Reins to Recovery for years, Guffey works on strength and muscle exercises, helping improve her balance and her mood as she works with the horses together with a big smile on her face.

“Stretching activities make it fun but again, she’s really working those muscles and zoning in on how to keep them calm while doing the different activities,” Johnson said.

The changes they’ve seen with Guffey over the years is sharp, Johnson said.

“Just the simplicity of sitting astride her horse has been huge because it used to be where we couldn’t get her stretched enough to do so,” Johnson said. “So now you see her up there and it’s no big thing for her at this point.”

“I like riding,” Guffey said.

Success like what they’ve seen with Danielle isn’t unusual in the programs they offer.

“I’ve gotten to witness kiddos say their first words on a horse, I’ve gotten to see a mother cry because their daughter is now walking and even running when a doctor once said they’ll never be able to walk unassisted,” Johnson said.

Reins to Recovery’s impact is now widespread, helping people all around the region. But it all started as a small idea in high school.

“That senior project started with just an idea of something I thought I was interested in, and I got to see it grow over the years into a career path that I can help others with,” Johnson said. “I’m just, I’m blessed.”

The program started with just three riders more than a decade ago, growing to serve around 60 riders a week now. While treatment is always the goal, the staff and the horses always work to find new ways to spread the love here, too.

“So I’m blessed, beyond measure,” Johnson said.

Because each program has grown to be so popular, they’re all waitlisted.

For more information about Reins to Recovery, visit the website here

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