“Saving Lives By Promoting the Human-Animal Bond.” This simple mission statement is at the heart of everything the Second Chance Humane Society does. And this year, the nonprofit will continue to fulfill its mission by expanding its community outreach services to include an equine assistance program.
The Second Chance Humane Society is well known for addressing the issue of homeless pets around Ouray, San Miguel and Montrose counties. Based out of Angel Ridge Ranch, a 52-acre property just north of Ridgway, Second Chance provides services such as rehabilitation, spay/neuter procedures, adoption and around-the-clock care for animals in need.
Second Chance also has partnered with the nonprofit organization Equine Empowerment to further promote the human-animal bond.
Equine Empowerment’s mission is to “provide experiential and therapy opportunities that empower and enrich lives.” The nonprofit is part of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, and is known for providing therapeutic activities with horses for individuals with cognitive, emotional and social needs, according to its website (equine-empowerment.org).
“Part of how it connects to our mission is that it does promote the human-animal bond, the benefits that we gain from our connections with animals,” Second Chance Executive Director Kelly Goodin said. “That is a big part of why we always wanted to have such a program through our organization.”
The equine assistance program has been a dream of Second Chance’s since it first bought the Angel Ridge Ranch in 2011. Prior to making the ranch Second Chance headquarters, the space was a horse property. The organization had been wanting to provide an equine program for a long time, but other projects — such as building a dog den — were more important priorities, Goodwin said.
“It is something that I have been waiting to see for so many years, just to see how the clients respond to the horses and how the horses respond to the clients,” she added.
Animal-based therapeutic programs typically only include working with animals such as dogs and cats; what makes this program stand out is its use of horses, according to Beth Godbey, Equine Empowerment director.
“Horses are prey animals and by nature they’re alert and aware of their environment,” she said. “We are already working in a way that they are aware of everything and because of that they can provide very authentic and in-the-moment feedback.”
The Equine Empowerment program includes three different offerings: therapeutic riding, equine-assisted learning and equine-assisted psychotherapy.
Equine-assisted learning involves using horses to build life skills and character development; equine-assisted psychotherapy provides counseling with horses to diagnose and address problems while working through them in the arena.
“Our mission is to empower and enrich lives through experiential learning and therapy opportunities, and we do that by empowering people with the horse,” Godbey said. “I’m excited that we are in the Ridgway community and I’m excited that we’re getting to offer these services to an expanded population of our county, Telluride and other local communities. We can offer and change lives in different ways.”
Another factor that makes this program so unique is that there is an element of trust that goes into interacting with a larger animal such as a horse. This contributes to a greater and authentic connection than one would have with another, smaller animal, Godbey said.
“I think that with our program and with the amazing people in our communities that there is a lot of good that can be done,” she added.
To learn more about Second Chance’s equine assistance program, visit adoptmountainpets.org.