There's a special connection, a little unexpected,, between 13-year-old Abel Morales and these two 1200 pound animals. A kind of trust that's been built between them. A trust that's fostered in the equine therapy program at Cal Farley's Boys Ranch.
"I would like to give them something like sharing and I wouldn't let them have it all but I'll let them have some. Just be kind," explains Abel Morales when asked why he chose to give the horses feed.
Reccia Nevels runs the program at the ranch. In this particular exercise, Abel is allowing the horses into his life.
"That bucket of feed represented something that may be held dear to him, some kind of personal boundary that he had. He was doing what came naturally to him regarding his personal boundaries and allowing the horses to have as much as he wanted them to and maybe not allowing them to have some other things," she explains.
"We use horses because they are inately honest. They also behave very similarly to human beings. Their social networks are a lot like ours so we get some really honest in the moment reactions from the horses and if someones changes what they're doing we get an immediate honest response that we sometimes don't get in human beings because humans live in the future, the present and the past and horses just live in the present moment."
Reccia believes the results she sees using horses are more effective than those in traditional therapies.
"Through this exercise Abel may have gained some awareness about what his personal boundaries are and how he chooses to interact in relationships."
Equine therapy, though, isn't just for young people. For example, Reccia suggests that I could benefit from the experience.
"In this exercise I want you to think what this buckets represents to you and I want it to be something personal and something that you hold dear, something that someone else wants but maybe you're not sure if you want to give it to them or not. You can just hold it in your head, but just label this bucket of feed."
It sounds elementary, but when it came down to it, I had to make a choice.
"You both seem to be pretty giving."
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