ALPINE, UT (News4Utah) “The challenges that young women face are global. And we know we have a program that is very impactful and we want to help as many girls as we can.” That’s Will Covey talking about a unique equine-assisted learning program. It was set up here in Utah to help girls develop confidence, to overcome fears, anxiety, and depression and develop critical life skills. In this News4Utah special report, Don Hudson takes you to Bridle Up Hope to meet two teenagers who say their lives were changed by the program.
Kaylee Kohler and Evelyn Anderson are very familiar with horses. Evelyn says “Horses they’re kind of like like people and they have feelings and personalities.” However, this is not what it looked like when they started riding six months ago. Kaylee says “There are so many aspects to riding a horse – you can’t just get on and just ride it.” “You have to establish a relationship with it first.” 13-year-old Evelyn and 18-year-old Kaylee learned that about horses while taking part in the girl’s program at Bridle Up Hope. “Every horse is different, but you have to have the upper hand and be the one in control.”
And that is a lesson that both Kaylee and Evelyn say they needed when they first came to the Alpine, Utah facility. That’s because both were recovering from the emotional aftermath of traumatic experiences that changed their lives. “I was in the back of a Jeep with no seat belt on.” “It rolled three to four times and on the last roll I was ejected and the Jeep landed on me.” “That tore my ACL, MCL, PCL.” “I broke my collarbone in half.” “I broke my pelvis.” “I had a skull fracture.” She was bed-ridden for months. She couldn’t walk and couldn’t play school volleyball – which she loved.” “Laying in the hospital bed and not knowing my future and knowing that everything is all changed and its all out of my control and everything took a huge turn.” “It was the most miserable state of mind that anyone can be in.”
For Evelyn – everything changed after an off-road vehicle accident. “We ended up flipping and we rolled down the hill and off of this cliff that was behind us.” “My helmet ended up cracking and it cut most of my face.” The accident took the lives of her grandparents – and also took her self-worth. “It felt like. It felt like just – nobody really wanted me here. (sobbing) I’m sorry. But with my grandparents gone – I just felt like I wanted to be gone with them because nobody wanted me here.”
But this past winter – both enrolled in a 14 lesson session at Bridle Up Hope. The program includes private horse instruction, learning from Sean Covey’s best-selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and they were required to volunteer at the facility. Evelyn says “It’s really helped me be more self-confident and to actually think positive about myself.” Kaylee says “It helped me to heal in a healthy way and to find healthy coping mechanisms.” Then there is the bonus – developing relationships of trust with the amazing instructors. “The staff is incredible and the instructors take it to a whole new level – than just being an instructor to being a best friend.” Both Evelyn and Kaylee say the lessons they learned from handling the horses translated to their daily lives. “The horses really help because they are telling me to take control of my life and my feelings.” “I learned how to establish boundaries and I can say no to things. I can have standards that I want to keep. And that applies just the same way with a horse.” And they say – coming here and learning from people, books, and the horses – has made all the difference. “Before I came here I was just a mess. Not knowing who I was and my purpose was. Who I was. Everyone has just taught me so much and how to feel better about myself and how to live life better, I guess. I am a lot different than who I was.”
Bridle Up Hope started in Utah, but the curriculum is now being used in the Netherlands and Caribbean. There are partial scholarships available for those with lower incomes – through donations to the scholarship fund. And while Bridle Up Hope is only in Alpine right now – it will soon expand to other locations in the state. Those include Mapleton, Park City/Heber area, St. George and Logan. And Bridle Up Hope has an ambitious goal to help one-hundred thousand girls and women every year. They hope to do that by establishing the curriculum in one-thousand barns across the globe.
There is so much more to the Bridle Up Hope story – to learn more about the programs for girls and the program for women and how to get involved and how to donate to the non-profit organization. Click on this link. https://www.bridleuphope.org