TREMONTON, Utah (ABC4) — A Box Elder County family is hoping to prevent suicides in Utah by offering equine therapy at Crossing Arrows Ranch in Tremonton. The ranch offers its services free of charge to veterans and first responders.
Running an equine therapy ranch isn’t cheap though and the family relies on sponsors and fundraisers to keep their doors open to those in need. The family is currently looking to raise $50k to $100k with the latest fundraising effort.
Spencer Smith leads a horse around the arena at Crossing Arrows Ranch. The ranch’s founder does this often as he works with clients who may be dealing with a variety of mental health issues.
“We’re trying to fix it, but at the same time, we let the horses do it. They’re the therapists,” Smith joked through a laugh. He told ABC4 that the horses play a crucial role in the work they do to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Nonetheless, therapists are also on the team to help make sure those who seek equine therapy are getting the help they need to overcome their internal struggles.
Why horses? Smith explained: “They can feel our heartbeats six to ten feet away from them. They can tell if we’re stressed.” Smith said the rider becomes aware of their own emotions by paying attention to how a horse reacts to the rider. He said a calm rider leads to a calm horse.
“You start focusing on okay how am I being mindful also, where are my thoughts leading to,” therapist Trudi Perkins told ABC4. “It’s that simple switch in perspective that makes all the difference.” She explained that learning how to focus on one’s emotions to ease a horse’s temperament is part of a practice called mindfulness.
“Working with horses, you are applying those skills,” Perkins stated. After learning those skills, she said, mindfulness techniques can then be used outside of the arena to help ground someone struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.
Smith told ABC4 that he’s struggled with his own mental health. However, that isn’t the reason for him starting the ranch. “Seven years ago, my son’s best friend committed suicide.” Ultimately, he said, they want to prevent that type of pain from falling on any other families.
“If we just have the resources to be able to get them the help or to get them to come out and ride horses or to just let them know that there is always somebody there for them, no matter what,” Smith stated.
The ranch has two branches. A for-profit branch and a nonprofit branch. Both help people of all ages. However, recently, the ranch began offering all of its services for free to all veterans and first responders. Smith said it is one way for the family to do what they can to give back to those who fight for their freedom and keep their community safe.
“I’m not a counselor, I’m not a doctor, I just know the horses do the magic,” Smith stated. Nonetheless, Smith is no magician and can’t just pull money out of a hat. Running a ranch isn’t cheap and to maximize the services the nonprofit branch of the organization can offer, the ranch relies on sponsors and fundraisers.
Smith said sponsors play a crucial role in helping cover the cost of services provided to children who cannot pay out of pocket.
And to keep its services available at no cost to veterans, the ranch is hosting a fundraiser through mid-October. The ranch has a side-by-side ATV (and a trailer to tow the ATV) it will be giving away to a winner. People can buy a ticket for $50 or two for $100 (and get a third ticket free). The goal is to sell 1,000 and raise between $50k and $100k.
“It’s all about trying to save someone’s life,” Smith added.