Cris Pemberton has loved all things equine since she first learned to talk. She took her first riding lesson at age six, and grew up to own a farm, riding school and boarding facility. Still, she wanted to give back to the creatures that had done so much for her. In 2014, she launched Full Circle Rescue, a program to rescue abused horses. What she didn’t realize was that the organization she founded would evolve to rescue people, too.
“My intention was to just save horses,” she admits, “but along the way, I gained a bigger appreciation for what people are going through and how their stories mirror those of the abused horses that find their way into our program.”
Today, Full Circle Rescue provides rehabilitation services for both horses and humans, creating an opportunity for them to heal together. “When people help care for our animals, they develop the skills to heal themselves,” Cris explains, noting that participants learn to accept responsibility, gain confidence, improve communication skills, and develop patience and empathy towards others.
Full Circle’s equine-assisted therapy program works with a wide-range of groups, from developmentally disabled young adults to clients in addiction recovery programs. For many, their time at Full Circle represents a break from the pressures of everyday life and a chance to relax and reconnect with the world around them.
“A big piece of Full Circle is to allow people to bond with the horses, to just realize how inclusive, kind, intelligent and compassionate they are,” Cris explains. In that way, she hopes people will find value in investing in horses’ well-being for the long haul. “Horses have done so much for us for so long,” she explains. “They deserve our care.” In return, she’s found that horses can touch, uplift and enrich individuals and communities.
As Cris puts it, “What we do here is create a circle of people and horses, all working to help each other find their purpose, feel better and be part of something bigger.”