Reason to Believe Ranch

Outlook Oklahoma, November 1st, 2013

Reason to Believe

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Five-year-old Luke Mays of Guthrie sways with a natural rhythm as the giant white-and-gray horse beneath him trots through the soft reddish dirt in the barn at the Reason to Believe ranch. He looks tiny on top of the show horse–his jeans-clad legs barely reach the stirrups and his little hands grab the reins as his hips roll in harmony with the horse’s gait. The expression on his face ranges from seriously solemn to a wide grin of pure joy.

Luke is autistic. Before, he couldn’t communicate like other five-year-olds. His balance and body control were sporadic. He’d randomly scream or babble out gibberish, as some autistic children do. “A friend of ours with an autistic daughter recommended horse therapy for Luke,” said father Todd Mays, a young firefighter from Guthrie. “We started searching and we heard about Prim and this ranch. We’ve been coming out here for six months.”

Prim Cockrell is the director of the Reason to Believe Ranch just north of Edmond. Her patience and skill have trained hundreds of show horses and champion riders, and now she guides troubled children and adults. However, she rarely worked with autistic children before Luke.

“He was real skittish of the horses at first,” Todd said, “and has never been comfortable around animals. Before, he had trouble communicating and concentrating. But now, when he’s on the horse, he’s really calm and relaxed with a natural balance and rhythm. He’s really happy.”

Luke and his fatherReason to Believe exists to help at-risk children and teenagers, developmentally-disabled adults, troubled young women and victims of human trafficking to develop skills to heal, to trust again, to gain the confidence necessary to make positive choices in life.

“Horses are unique about sensing things that we as humans overlook,” Prim said. “Because of that, they have a unique ability to interact with humans. They are God’s creatures.”

Horses don’t lie. Reason to Believe, formerly the Equine Therapy Center, started in 2002 when Prim came to Edmond. An expert in show horsemanship, she has been an instructor for more than three decades. She excelled at teaching and had dreamed of opening a place where horses could help others heal.

Today, the center uses eight championship show horses and six miniature horses to reach out to souls who suffer. On Wednesday nights, a dozen inner-city children ages four and older work with the miniature horses to learn skills such as confidence, teamwork, trust and more.

Lost, addicted and troubled girls from the Four Winds Ranch for Adolescent Girls bond with the horses, learning to control the harsh emotions and heal the deep wounds they carry.

Gina*, a gorgeous and vivacious blonde 17-year-old, is one of those girls. As a young teen, she battled a difficult family, alcoholism, drug use and other behaviors that she vowed she would never do. After rehab efforts failed, her mother knocked her out with Valium one night and she woke up in Edmond’s Four Winds Ranch.

“I was broken, angry and so hurt and scared,” Gina said. “I wouldn’t let anyone touch me. I couldn’t trust human touch because touch meant pain. When I first came here, the horses scared me. I was terrified, and the first thing they did was put me on one of the biggest horses blindfolded.” But she learned to trust the horses. She learned to trust herself enough not to give in to the anger.

“One day, I was yelling at the horses, and they were scared when I did that,” Gina said. “I realized I was repeating what my father did to me. But horses still love you. They don’t lie to you. The horses don’t know you, but they love you anyway. When I’m with them, I feel calm, loving and at peace. I don’t have to understand how. I just accept that they help me, understand me and they love me.”

Prim believes that God expresses Himself through horses, and that they have an uncanny bond with humans. Her horses help the children and adults see value in themselves while working with the majestic creatures. “God made horses gorgeous,” said Prim. When the kids or the girls saved from human-trafficking see how big and huge these animals are, but also how gentle they are, they learn that not everything hurts them. “We show them that they deserve acceptance and unconditional love. Horses will never lie or betray them.”

A Reason to Succeed Bethany Boatright is a beautiful, energetic, blue-eyed blonde 17-year-old and deals with a learning disability, ADHD and epilepsy. She’s been with Reason to Believe for years.

Bethany began working with Reason to Believe, the ranch’s namesake and largest horse. Standing 17 hands tall, Reason was a gorgeous beast. He was the horse that brought her out of her shell and filled her with love, hope and the ability to set boundaries. “Horses sense something in you. They’re good horses, and I know they aren’t going to hurt me,” said Bethany, who engages daily with the horses as part of a work-study program through her school. “I was terrified, because I fell off a horse at the other riding school and got kicked in the head. This very special horse helped me gain my confidence back.”

“I feel like they listen. If they know you are upset, they come and put their head on your shoulder,” said Bethany. “When I was having a hard time with my friends at school–horses helped me get through it.”

Bethany’s parents, Rex and Mary, are believers in the healing power of horses. They saw their daughter transform from a meek, scared, unconfident girl to a young woman with an inner strength and a gifted way with horses.

Reason to Succeed

“Our vision is to challenge children in non-threatening ways and break down defenses,” said Prim. “We try to improve communication, problem-solving, anger management and relationship skills. We also help children build character by developing spiritual gifts like kindness, gentleness, patience and self-control.”

Sadly, Bethany’s mentor horse, Reason to Believe, died this past May from a ruptured stomach. Despite the best efforts of the surgeons at the Oakridge Equine Hospital, the mighty creature passed away, leaving behind a legacy of souls healed. Bethany mourned. Because of her success, however, her parents purchased a new horse, Reason to Succeed, for the young lady. Now, Bethany leads other youth along the same journey.

Wall of Hope

Reason to Believe Ranch’s programs and horses steer kids away from substance abuse and bad choices that trap them in a life of despair. “We’ve got something special here that works,” Prim said. “We want everyone to come out and see it. God works through these horses.”

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