Giselle is an equine-assisted psychotherapy horse at CORRAL Riding Academy in Cary, North Carolina. CORRAL is a nonprofit that pairs rescued horses with girls in high-risk situations to provide transformational life change through a long term holistic approach. Giselle came to the farm as one of the program’s first rescue horses in 2008 with her very young foal. Prior to coming to the farm, she was in a terrible situation of neglect and abuse. During her pregnancy, all of her nutrients (for which there were few) went to her baby, leaving her even worse off. When she and the baby arrived at CORRAL, Giselle took a while to warm up, but quickly became one of the best horses for therapy. The girls in the program are able to relate to her neglect and trauma and she always seems to know what they need.
A few weeks ago, a girl who has been in the program for a long time (we’ll call her Jill) had a huge breakthrough with Giselle.
She was bucked off.
Now, this does not seem like a very “Horse Hero” thing to do, but it was exactly what Jill needed to process through her own trauma. This experience was the first time Jill was able to process her fear. With the help of the mental health professional on staff, she was able to acknowledge and process through emotions that she had never been able to do before. Often, kids who have experienced trauma are not able to truly feel their emotions and because of this remain disconnected from themselves and others. This experience allowed her to not only acknowledge these hard emotions but also develop a new relationship.
Since being bucked off, Jill has been slow and careful with Giselle, building a new safe relationship for both of them. Therapy sessions have focused on how both Giselle and Jill have trauma which makes things hard sometimes. Jill has identified why fear is important, how it can keep us safe, and has learned in a safe time and place to conquer fear in a way that’s healthy and productive.
Yesterday, she was able to mount Giselle on her own and do a lovely, relaxed ride around the arena. Giselle provides life-changing moments like these every day and is truly the best pony ever! —Rachel S.