One Child’s Journey

By Annie Sliman

Even though Maggie is only 8 years old, she has had more than her share of challenges to overcome. One of the most significant is obsessive-compulsive disorder, which makes Maggie anxious and overly concerned with germs and cleanliness. Right now, a very important thing in Maggie’s young life is her involvement at White Horse Youth Ranch. At the ranch, she is truly a “diamond in the rough” who’s learning the skills and gaining the confidence that she needs to achieve her goals. It’s the mission of WHY Ranch to help kids like Maggie with programs that use the ranch experience to build self-esteem, respect for others and foster independence.

White Horse Youth RanchFor Maggie, the first step was overcoming her very real fears. As a newcomer, one of her chores is taking care of the newly hatched chicks in their special cages. Even though she doesn’t like dirt and worries about germs, she has learned to gently pick up the chicks and put them in a safe spot while she cleans the cage and returns them to their habitat. At first, this was all too much for Maggie. A little at a time, and with the encouragement of WHY Ranch staff, she was able to make progress and now is a confident and competent caretaker for the baby chicks.

Being around the WHY Ranch horses was another matter. As Maggie figured out, horses are large and sometimes unpredictable. One evening, Amy Meyer, who is the president and founder of WHY Ranch, was teaching Maggie how to halter and lead Itty Bitty, one of the horses at the ranch. At one point, Maggie just froze. When Meyer asked her if she was afraid, Maggie answered yes. Meyer recalled, “I knew this was a teachable moment. I told Maggie that it was fine to be afraid. That’s how we’re supposed to feel. I’m afraid every day but I’ve learned to get through it. There’s nothing more courageous than being afraid and doing what you’re afraid of v.” Maggie listened and then took the lead, while her thrilled mom quietly mouthed a thank you to Meyer. High-fives were in order after the session, as Maggie showed everyone how much grit was behind her once shy and withdrawn personality.

Right now, a very important thing in Maggie’s young life is her involvement at White Horse Youth Ranch

White Horse Youth RanchFor Meyer, that is the reward in the long days she puts in at the ranch. “What an amazing gift it is to witness a breakthrough. That’s when you know that the hard work, blood, sweat and tears you’ve poured into your passion is truly for that one child on this day. They are here to find their best selves, and it’s my privilege to bear witness.”

As Meyer watches young people gain in confidence, she encourages them to grow in their relationships with others. For example, Maggie had a very difficult time sharing anything with her younger sister. She especially did not want her involved in the same activities. After a few weeks at WHY Ranch, however, Maggie asked Meyer if her sister could attend with her. “I think she’d really learn a lot here,” Maggie said, “Just like I have.”

Wonderful stories like Maggie’s happen all the time at WHY Ranch, as kids are exposed to its gentle horses, dedicated staff and Meyer’s committed leadership. “I have personally watched as Maggie made friends and overcame her shyness and insecurity. Maggie, who once wanted to participate only in our One 2 One program, now enjoys our group Diamonds program. She engages with the other kids and participates in helping at the ranch. She’s a very different kid, and I’m so proud of her.”