“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When “I” is replaced by “we,” illness becomes wellness.” -Shannon L. Alder.

It is very important to ensure that those who feel this way, find comfort and happiness in something. Through the powerful teachings of the horse, it is possible. Sam had always faced many mental health issues which resulted in her abusing substances and not being able to truly be herself. Sam’s childhood life hadn’t always been the easiest, and as a result, she experienced many drastic life changes and had troubles finding true happiness in anything she would do.

A few years ago, while she was still in school and after a bit of convincing, she decided to come and give an equine assisted learning program a try. She, of course, was very scared, as this was the first time she had been around a horse, and they’re intimidating if you’ve never been around them before and was also extremely skeptical of what she was getting herself into. But, with large amounts of courage, she faced through her fears and came anyway, as she truly did want to help herself to get past her addictions and struggles.

The first day she came; Sam went out with Kari to the field and caught a horse to work with. Now, the incredible part is what happens next, as in our programs, our horses are all ready to go in the arena when the participants arrive. But something felt different. It was the feeling of allowing Sam to pick her own horse. Sam was hesitant to catch her horse, as anyone new to horses would be, and so she waited. Suddenly, a horse came out of the herd and picked her out. This special horse was named J.R. and very quickly after they had a real bond. The most amazing part of this is that J.R. never comes up to anyone, not even us. It truly was breathtaking.

The program was going extremely well, Sam was coming each week, once a week, and then something changed. Sam had come to one of the programs with a different feeling. She had a lot going on.

Now, we always talk about how the horse does the talking and this is exactly what happened. We did not realize anything different about Sam that day, nor is it any of our business about what happens in someone’s personal life, but J.R. noticed something was different. She could inevitably sense the change in Sam, and therefore, was not responding to her at all. She was bobbing her head up and down like nothing we had ever seen before.

And so, we talked to one of our good friends, Eppie, as this was something that we had never seen before. Eppie had explained the J.R. was releasing all the energy Sam had. This is what horses do in the herd, to maintain that their herd stays balanced. As when safety is the priority, staying balanced is vital to survival. Now, this was an extreme that we hadn’t seen none-the-less, but J.R. was helping Sam. She was taking on the energy from Sam, and releasing and grounding it for her.

It wasn’t until the following program that we found out from Sam, that there was something different about the last program. She was struggling in her life. There was a significant shift.

She explained how much of an impact the horse was having on her and how much of an impact she had on the horse. She showed up to that one program, regardless of the circumstances in her life, because she was grateful for this opportunity. And what an amazing skill to have, to persevere even when times get tough, because we want to help ourselves to move forward.

This experience resulted in a strong connection and Sam still holds J.R. very close to her heart. J.R. was able to change her life and help her build it back up again. Sam went on to rap for those who were bullied, and is continuously moving forward in such an impactful way. She was able to build up her self worth and self-esteem, once again.

All in all, J.R. saved Sam’s life.

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