Changing Gaits is built on a straightforward premise: Horses can change lives. Founder Guy Kaufmann sees the truth in that simple statement every time he looks in a mirror.
After struggling for years with addiction, Guy credits his horse Shadow with helping him overcome his challenges. Inspired to share his experience with others, he launched Changing Gaits in 2004. Sixteen years later, the Minnesota-based equine therapy program has grown to offer programs for at-risk youth, adolescents with autism, victims of abuse, those with physical disabilities, and more.
“Part of our magic is getting people away from the places that trigger negative behaviors,” Guy explains. “We help them work through their trauma at our beautiful 80-acre ranch while building a bond with our wonderful therapy horses.”
Jack Frost, a small, blind pony, is one of those miracle workers. He’s smaller and slower than the other horses, and they often ignore him as he struggles to keep up. But for many of the clients at Changing Gaits, Jack Frost’s challenges are deeply relatable.
“I remember one eight-year-old boy. He saw so much of himself in that little horse, he was able to tell our therapist about previously undisclosed abuse,” Guy explains. “As a result, we were able to get the boy additional protections– all because he liked the little horse at the back of the pack.”
Volunteer Tina Klien is another big fan of the little pony, and of the work being done at Changing Gait. “I see how building one positive relationship with a horse can lead to so much good for people in their lives.… I leave the ranch every day with hope.”