Reason to Believe Ranch

Prim and Luke

Five-year-old Luke Mays of Guthrie
sways with a natural rhythm as the giant white-and-gray horse beneath him trots
through the soft reddish dirt in the barn at the Reason to Believe ranch. He
looks tiny on top of the show horse—his jeans-clad legs barely reach the
stirrups and his little hands grab the reins as his hips roll in harmony with
the horse’s gait. The expression on his face ranges from seriously solemn to a
wide grin of pure joy.

AngeloLuke is autistic. Before, he
couldn’t communicate like other five-year-olds. His balance and body control
were sporadic. He’d randomly scream or babble out gibberish, as some autistic
children do. “A friend of ours with an autistic daughter recommended horse
therapy for Luke,” said father Todd Mays, a young firefighter from Guthrie. “We
started searching and we heard about Prim and this ranch. We’ve been coming out
here for six months.”

Prim Cockrell is the director of
the Reason to Believe Ranch just north of Edmond. Her patience and skill have
trained hundreds of show horses and champion riders, and now she guides
troubled children and adults. However, she rarely worked with autistic children
before Luke.

“He was real skittish of the
horses at first,” Todd said, “and has never been comfortable around animals.
Before, he had trouble communicating and concentrating. But now, when he’s on
the horse, he’s really calm and relaxed with a natural balance and rhythm. He’s
really happy.”

Luke and his fatherReason to Believe exists to help
at-risk children and teenagers, developmentally-disabled adults, troubled young
women and victims of human trafficking to develop skills to heal, to trust
again, to gain the confidence necessary to make positive choices in life.

“Horses are unique about sensing
things that we as humans overlook,” Prim said. “Because of that, they have a
unique ability to interact with humans. They are God’s creatures.”

Horses don’t lie.

Reason to Believe, formerly the
Equine Therapy Center, started in 2002 when Prim came to Edmond. An expert in
show horsemanship, she has been an instructor for more than three decades. She
excelled at teaching and had dreamed of opening a place where horses could help
others heal.

Prim with childrenToday, the center uses eight
championship show horses and six miniature horses to reach out to souls who
suffer. On Wednesday nights, a dozen inner-city children ages four and older
work with the miniature horses to learn skills such as confidence, teamwork,
trust and more.

Lost, addicted and troubled
girls from the Four Winds Ranch for Adolescent Girls bond with the horses,
learning to control the harsh emotions and heal the deep wounds they carry.

Gina*, a gorgeous and vivacious
blonde 17-year-old, is one of those girls. As a young teen, she battled a
difficult family, alcoholism, drug use and other behaviors that she vowed she
would never do. After rehab efforts failed, her mother knocked her out with
Valium one night and she woke up in Edmond’s Four Winds Ranch.

Mini Horses“I was broken, angry and so hurt
and scared,” Gina said. “I wouldn’t let anyone touch me. I couldn’t trust human
touch because touch meant pain.  When I
first came here, the horses scared me. I was terrified, and the first thing
they did was put me on one of the biggest horses blindfolded.” But she learned
to trust the horses. She learned to trust herself enough not to give in to the
anger.

“One day, I was yelling at the
horses, and they were scared when I did that,” Gina said. “I realized I was
repeating what my father did to me. But horses still love you. They don’t lie
to you. The horses don’t know you, but they love you anyway. When I’m with
them, I feel calm, loving and at peace. I don’t have to understand how. I just accept
that they help me, understand me and they love me.”

Prim believes that God expresses
Himself through horses, and that they have an uncanny bond with humans. Her
horses help the children and adults see value in themselves while working with
the majestic creatures. “God made horses gorgeous,” said Prim. When the kids or
the girls saved from human-trafficking see how big and huge these animals are,
but also how gentle they are, they learn that not everything hurts them. “We
show them that they deserve acceptance and unconditional love. Horses will
never lie or betray them.”

A Reason to Succeed

Bethany with AngeloBethany Boatright is a
beautiful, energetic, blue-eyed blonde 17-year-old and deals with a learning
disability, ADHD and epilepsy. She’s been with Reason to Believe for years.

Bethany began working with
Reason to Believe, the ranch’s namesake and largest horse. Standing 17 hands
tall, Reason was a gorgeous beast. He was the horse that brought her out of her
shell and filled her with love, hope and the ability to set boundaries. “Horses
sense something in you. They’re good horses, and I know they aren’t going to
hurt me,” said Bethany, who engages daily with the horses as part of a
work-study program through her school. “I was terrified, because I fell off a
horse at the other riding school and got kicked in the head. This very special
horse helped me gain my confidence back.”

“I feel like they listen. If
they know you are upset, they come and put their head on your shoulder,” said
Bethany. “When I was having a hard time with my friends at school—horses helped
me get through it.”

Bethany’s parents, Rex and Mary,
are believers in the healing power of horses. They saw their daughter transform
from a meek, scared, unconfident girl to a young woman with an inner strength
and a gifted way with horses.

Reason to Succeed

“Our vision is to challenge
children in non-threatening ways and break down defenses,” said Prim. “We try
to improve communication, problem-solving, anger management and relationship
skills. We also help children build character by developing spiritual gifts
like kindness, gentleness, patience and self-control.”

Sadly, Bethany’s mentor horse,
Reason to Believe, died this past May from a ruptured stomach. Despite the best
efforts of the surgeons at the Oakridge Equine Hospital, the mighty creature
passed away, leaving behind a legacy of souls healed. Bethany mourned. Because
of her success, however, her parents purchased a new horse, Reason to Succeed,
for the young lady. Now, Bethany leads other youth along the same journey.

Wall of Hope

Reason to Believe Ranch’s programs and horses
steer kids away from substance abuse and bad choices that trap them in a life
of despair. “We’ve got something special here that works,” Prim said. “We want
everyone to come out and see it. God works through these horses.”

To learn more or to donate, please visit reasontobelieveranch.org.

 

*Name changed for privacy


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