Kristen Kinder established Restore Ranch based on her lived experience: It’s easier for a survivor of sexual trauma to trust a horse that a human.
“Restore Ranch was born out of my own healing,” she explains, recalling her abusive upbringing. “Two of the horses currently at our farm are the reason I’m still alive today. They, with the help of therapy, and by the grace of God, helped me heal and relearn how to live and thrive.” Now she channels the 20 years of trauma and abuse she endured to help others.
“People struggling with effects of abuse, mental illness or self-harm can be anxious about opening up about their struggles, but horses offer a neutral, nonjudgmental ear,” Kinder explains. “They are incredible animals that mirror emotions and actions of the people around them. Sometimes we don’t realize we are expressing a certain emotion, but how the horse responds can help us identify what we’re feeling.”
At Restore Ranch, clients and their chosen horse work through exercises that simulate real-life scenarios. Along the way, they learn to overcome obstacles in a healthy way, building skills and confidence. “I’ve watched clients go from timid, standoffish and quick to wanting to quit when an activity gets hard, to being excited to put the work into completing an activity,” Kinder says. “I’ve seen shy clients who keep to themselves go help a struggling group member, and I’ve listened as clients share what they learned during the session, realizing how they can use these insights in their healing process.”
Ultimately, Kinder says it’s about helping clients understand they are worthy of love and friendship – something that often starts with the horses. “They help bridge the gap while we chip away at a client’s layers of walls,” she says, until finally, “they realize they can overcome and heal and thrive.”