ALPINE, Utah (ABC4) — Nestled in the hills of Alpine, Utah sits a barn with a story, and that story begins with a girl who loved horses named Rachel Covey.
“She called me up one day after completing a 50-mile endurance ride,” Rachel’s father, Sean Covey said. “She called up and said ‘Dad I found my voice! This is it! I want to just do this for the rest of my life. I want to ride horses and race horses.'”
Rachel was the most loving, bubbly, fun, free-spirited girl ever according to her younger sister, Victoria Covey. “So creative, so smart, just hilarious, so fun to be around and you wouldn’t know that she also battled depression really severely for years and years and years,” Victoria said.
In 2012, Rachel tragically passed away.
“It was such a shock for our family,” Victoria said. “Just in 2012, you know, mental health, depression, anxiety, it was very hush-hush. Even 10 years ago and people didn’t really talk about it as they do now and so I was with her all the time and I didn’t even know what depression was. I just knew she was sad a lot of the time.”
Shortly after Rachel passed, inspiration struck her family members.
“After she passed away, some of her close friends […] came to us and they said ‘Rachel changed me. She changed my life.’ […] My parents asked how, and they said ‘She took me horseback riding,'” Victoria said.
And at that moment, through tragedy, triumph was found.
“We just said ok, we’re going to do what Rachel did and try to help young women who are struggling through horses,” said Sean.
In Rachel’s honor, her family founded Bridle Up Hope, a 501 ©(3) public charity with a mission to inspire hope, confidence, and resilience in young women through equestrian training.
“Then we got the idea of combining it with the seven habits, my dad’s work, because they’re so powerful, these habits,” Sean said. “So we just kind of naturally integrated it in a non-academic way. Just as your horseback riding, learning the habits.”
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a book written by Stephen R. Covey that contains lessons in personal change. The book provides a step-by-step pathway to living with integrity, service, fairness, and human dignity while also giving principles that help people find the confidence and security they need to adapt to change and see the benefit that comes from these opportunities.
“There’s three parts to our program,” Executive Director Nicole Holgreen said. “So our first part is a girl or a woman, [an] instructor, and a horse. And then the second part is the seven habits and the third part we have service hours that the women and girls can come and volunteer. Muck stalls, feed horses, and give back.”
Their Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) curriculum helps to teach girls and women how to recognize their worth and potential and how to approach life’s hardships the best way they can.
“Horses, they teach you confidence,” Victoria said. “Because when you are with a horse, if you’re slumped over like this looking down and you have no confidence the horse will just take over and do whatever they want.”
Victoria said she learned that she had to be the leader of the horse, and that she was in control of her own life. “And that’s what we teach the girls as well,” Victoria said. “So we teach them ok, let’s stand up a little taller, let’s put our shoulders back, let’s look at the horse in its eyes, and let’s know that you are the leader.”
These lessons and their teachings are now moving worldwide. They have four locations just in Utah, one in Idaho and Texas, one in Guadeloupe, Estonia, and the Netherlands, and this summer they will open another one in Ukraine.
“A lot of the challenges throughout the world are similar,” Holgreen said. “Social media, self-esteem, some of them have been through trauma. Our Ukraine location, you know, they’re just needing more hope. We talked to an organization and we were talking about the immediate needs and they said, ‘You know, food will get them through the day, shelter will get them through the winter, hope will get them through the war.'”
While Rachel may be gone, her spirit of helping others through horses lives on and can be found in every girl that enters their barn and comes out with hoofprints on their heart.
“We feel her helping us out from the other side, all the time and so do the girls,” Sean said. “So I think she’s very involved and I think she understands what it’s like to be challenged with depression and anxiety and so I think she’s very happy about this.”
“She’s jumping up and down for joy,” Victoria said. “She’s so happy that because of her journey and her life, others can be changed and I’m sure she is right here with us all the time helping us and trying to help all these girls and women. She’s jumping for joy because of the hundreds of thousands of girls and women that this program will help.”