The horses at Image of Hope Ranch come from varied backgrounds. Some were rescued from abusive environments; others were “retired” and in need of a new purpose. Regardless of their history, they offer unconditional love to all who visit.
The ranch, located in northeastern Indiana, serves as a sanctuary for emotionally struggling individuals of all ages. “Our goal is to provide a space where guests can let go of their troubles, even if it’s for an hour,” explains Alisha Shank, who founded Image of Hope Ranch. During that 60-minute session, guests are paired with a horse or pony, and a trained leader. Through hands-on activities, guests are taught the value of hope, family, trust, faith and unconditional love, all at no cost.
During a session, guests may groom, pet, work with or ride a horse. Leaders select activities based on the comfort level and needs of the child or adult. “We work hard to pair everyone with a horse that will help them move forward in their life,” Alisha explains, noting that horses view people as members of their herd. As the build relationships with clients, the horses help them heal and grow stronger.
It’s not just the people who find respite at the ranch. Many of the horses have also endured neglect, abuse or even starvation. Often the horses arrive at Image of Hope in need of rehabilitation themselves. “We work with the horses to help them regain trust as well,” extols Tisha Travis, one of the ranch’s many volunteers.
“At the end of the day I may be exhausted, but as I walk to the house and reflect back on the sessions held that day, it always gives me joy,” Alisha emphasizes. “The lives that are changed for the better, the hope that our guests feel, the goals that they set, and the healing that takes place is what Image of Hope Ranch is all about.”