By Annie Sliman
Helping Kids Build Confidence and Self-Esteem
For many kids, the path from childhood to adulthood is not always smooth. The challenges they face vary widely, including learning differences, psychological issues and physical difficulties. At White Horse Youth Ranch, none of these issues matter. Through its programs, WHY Ranch builds confidence, encourages integrity and inspires creativity while it preserves an iconic part of American history, the horse. Its beautiful facility is a functioning ranch, complete with gentle horses and trained staff, all of whom are dedicated to helping kids become their best selves.
Its equestrian program, Diamonds in the Rough, is designed to provide free horsemanship education to socially-challenged youth between the ages of five to eighteen.
Amy Meyer is the president and founder of WHY Ranch. She is enthusiastic about its mission and believes that being around horses and learning to care for them offers young people a perfect opportunity to build the skills they need for happiness in life. “Horses are great because they don’t know a thing about schedules, gossip, bullying, expectations or any of that,” she said. “They only perceive how a person approaches and pets, grooms, hugs or talks to them. Inherently, they are instinctive animals that can help heal broken hearts and minds with just their beautiful spirits and tranquility. Positive experience with a horse provides each youth with life-changing tools that transfer to all aspects of his or her life.”
Hannah is a good example. She is a participant in the Diamonds in the Rough program and spoke movingly at its recent One Child gala event at the ranch. According to Hannah, she has a learning difference. Because of dyslexia, she reads and comprehends more slowly than her peers.
“Why Ranch has helped me because I’ve learned that not everybody judges. When I am with the horses, I feel like no one will look at me differently. I’ve learned to make good and true friends at the ranch. It’s helped me with my schoolwork, through teaching me how to keep my emotions under control. I used to feel that people didn’t think I was smart enough. My dyslexia makes me a little slower but now I’m confident that I can do it,” she said about her experience at WHY Ranch.
Hannah has learned an important lesson and she has also experienced the power of unqualified acceptance. “The horses don’t care how long it takes to read. They love me anyway and so does everyone at WHY Ranch.”
Sara is another Diamond in the Rough. This lovable and creative eight-year old has issues with speech and needed a boost to become a confident learner. Her mother explained, “The ranch gives Sara an opportunity to create her own space, where her relationship with the horse is the most important thing. She started the program a bit shy and scared. She’s developed confidence, connection and responsibility, but most importantly, she’s learned that she already has the courage to be what she wants in life.” Sara’s mom has also been impressed with how quickly her daughter overcame her fears and began to enjoy being around horses. By Sara’s second session, she was putting on her hard hat and heading into the stables without a backward glance.
WHY Ranch is proud of its many success stories and proud of creating an atmosphere where such transformations are possible. “Now that we’ve found our own home, we are steadily committed to helping as many young people as possible through Diamonds in the Rough. With love, encouragement and exposure to our gentle horses, we can teach these kids to shine,” Meyer said. For more information, visit whyranch.org.