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Horses bring hope to incarcerated youth

A new program involving horses is providing therapy to youth at Juvenile Facilities in Oxnard.

Reins of H.O.P.E. (Human Opportunity Partnering with Equines) has partnered with Ventura County Probation Agency and Ventura County Behavioral Health to provide the therapy. Its goal is to empower youth to improve communication, problem solving skills, build confidence and trust in themselves and their relationships with others, and to decrease mental health issues.

The program just started this month. During the first session licensed therapist transported two mini horses to the Juvenile Facilities in Oxnard for therapeutic sessions with youth.

Licensed therapist Carrington Singmaster says that she has seen patients open up more in a couple sessions utilizing a horse, then years of therapy inside a room.

“Instantly you get to see them that shadow that façade that persona just drops and their heart opens in this way that is very different from traditional talk therapy,” said Singmaster.

“We have watched and stepped way back and watched kids actually share their story with a horse. Stories they have never told anyone and you can just see them have that release,” said Equine Specialist Samantha Balcezak with Reins of H.O.P.E.

Thanks to a grant Reins of H.O.P.E. will soon be serving the youth at Los Preitos Boys Camp in Santa Barbara County. The hope is with more funding the program will continue to expand.

“Right now we are not funded to do this program and we only have the funds to be able to go into the facility for 2-hours twice a month, but we would love to be able to get in more. We are only able to see a handful of kids at a time, so we would love anybody that can donate, support or give us any type of resources so that we could bring them in more,” said Balcezak.

For more information on the work Reins of H.O.P.E. provides check out its website.

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