Horse Therapy at Triple Creek Ranch
● By Christy Milan
Story by Christy Milan
Photos by Alexis LeClair
SMILES SPREAD LIKE like rays of sunshine as students ride, groom and care for their four-legged friends. These are the moments that heal. This is Triple Creek Ranch, participating in therapeutic horse riding. This equine-assisted therapy consists of a complex intervention using horses and horse-related activities to positively influence cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being.
The ranch is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization that helps special needs children and adults achieve balance of mind, body and spirit with Christian-based values. The therapeutic riding and youth program began in 2003. The horses on the ranch are all rescued and trained and roam the 40-acre ranch. Research suggests that many students who participate in therapeutic riding have experienced physical, emotional and mental rewards.
Horseback riding gently and rhythmically moves the rider’s body, so riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength. The unique relationship formed with a horse can also lead to increased patience, confidence and self esteem. Riders benefit from the sense of independence found on horseback. Benefits are extended to those who choose to rest and relax with the horses, as well.
Bill and Eileen Reese own Triple Creek Ranch and manage the program. Bill and his son are military veterans with special needs of their own, and the ranch has served as a healing place for both. “Having the privilege of caring for the beautiful horses every day and working with students has kept me going, especially during my hard days,” Reese says. “The horses have such a calming effect on me. Being able to see the smiles on people’s faces and seeing the changes the horses make is dramatic. It is second to none. The horses helped our son return to civilian life after his life-altering experience in Iraq. That was an amazing journey.”
The grandchildren have all played a role in helping train the horses. Isabella was only 9 months old when she was started on Samson the miniature. Makaylla, Julietta, Samantha, Alex, JJ and Jewelynn all contributed to cleaning pens, feeding, grooming, riding and developing the ranch. Nathan, their youngest son, developed the skills to train and work with horses at other prestigious ranches.
Derek Longwell was born with spina bifida and was a student before becoming a volunteer. “I just enjoy being able to see the world in a different perspective and to be able to connect with the horse, and just being outside,” he says. “If my mom hadn’t met Eileen and Triple Creek Ranch, I don’t know where I would be.”
Volunteers learn about each horse and gain skills by helping the students. They assist with activities including grooming, tacking and ranch hand duties.
“We are blessed to have such wonderful volunteers, including Simpson University students, high school teens, veterans and Kohl’s employees,” Reese says.
Jon Wong goes to the ranch on weekends to help out. “Working with horses by leading and caring for them is equally good for me,” Wong says. “It is therapy to be on the ranch. I find a renewed spirit in the outdoors and have experienced real aspects of life and death on the ranch, as well as the required effort to maintain them.”
Adds Reese, “Horses have so much to teach us if we are just willing to watch and listen.”
In 2017, the ranch provided a home for five miniature horses. The herd now includes seven miniatures and eight horses. The horse family they acquired is related to the mini horse, Ryder. Ryder and Samson are especially popular and enjoy visiting in the community. All seven minis attend The Very Triple Creek Christmas event, where they pose for pictures with Santa and families.
The program is seeking business sponsors now for this year’s Christmas event, scheduled for Dec. 7 and 8. The event is a free outreach to families that have children with special needs. It’s a place where parents can relax and have a fun family adventure with volunteers who understand the special needs of their child.
As the day ends and the sun sets, the horses on the ranch rest for another day with special friends. •
Triple Creek Ranch • (530) 527-9394