How Horses Help Troubled Kids Cope, Thrive

By Eric Olson

April 11, 2012 Updated Apr 11, 2012 at 11:55 AM EDT

COLUMBIA, CITY, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--Teddy Roosevelt said the best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse. Looks like that goes for kids, too.

Welcome to ‘Ride with Faith’ stables in Columbia City, a place where troubled kids can find comfort, and discover the key to happiness…through horses. Amber Hoopengardner’s having trouble coping with a disabled sibling at home…nine year old Lukeus Morrow’s got serious anger issues. Experts say interacting with animals can help these kids sort out their own feelings and learn to deal with them.

“They will reflect what you’re feeling,” says stable founder and owner Pam Connelly Castle. “As soon as you calm down you relax you breathe, they calm down they relax they breathe. And the cooperation then comes from that. And so these kids start to learn that their body language and their emotions are able to be controlled.”

Children like Lukeus are able to transfer what they learn about communicating with horses to their interaction with parents and others.

“He has learned patience, which is huge,” says Katrina Osterman, Lukeus’ mom. “Patience is anything and everything is important in your job in school with your family with your peers. So it’s making a difference? Oh, huge difference.”

Pam Connelly-Castle started ‘ride with faith’, got it certified with the state’s mental health department and family social service agency. She says she was a troubled kid until her dad, who knew the therapeutic value of horses, found an equine program for her.

“If my dad hadn’t down this for me when I was ten years old it’s hard telling where I’d have ended up.”

As it is Pam ended up building a career teaching others what she discovered in her troubled youth, that there may be something better than a horse’s outside for what ails you inside, but she can’t think of what that might be. This is Eric Olson reporting.

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