Raven Rock Ranch

When Irene* arrived at Raven Rock Ranch, she’d given up on life. She was failing high school, choosing the wrong kind of friends and had attempted suicide. Then along came Rooney, a gentle bay gelding who fell in love with the troubled teen.

“Rooney would follow her around wherever she went,” recalls Sandy Matts, chief mental health officer and director of Raven Rock Ranch. “The feeling was mutual. With Rooney, Irene felt alive and happy.”

Slowly, the grip of depression loosened, and Irene began to make better choices. She graduated from high school on time – a feat her mom called a “miracle” – and is now attending college. According to Matts, the rescued thoroughbred gelding, once destined for the kill pen, is a big reason for Irene’s transformation.

Sandy founded Raven Rock specifically for kids like Irene, drawing on her own experience as an at-risk teen positively impacted by her childhood horse. The nonprofit, which rescues horses and pairs them with troubled kids, started with just one horse and a single client. Today, nine horses call Raven Rock home and the organization reports helping scores of children and families in its decade-plus run.

“Ninety-eight percent of our clients come in with suicidal ideation, but after one year of treatment, that number drops to less than two percent,” Matts explains, but it’s the stories behind the statistics that drive home the importance of Raven Rock Ranch. She adds, “I have countless notes and emails from kids and their parents telling me that they would not be alive if not for the ranch.”

*Client name changed for privacy reasons.