LITTLETON, Colo. – At Zuma’s Rescue Ranch, founder and executive director, Jodi Messenich rescues horses from all over the country, then the horses rescue young people who are struggling in their lives.
“The kids come without intent, they just come genuinely to love on the horses”, Messenich told CBS4.
The horses learn to love them right back.
“She’s great at really telling them how she’s feeling and that’s something that really draws the horses in”, said Mica Graves, the licensed professional counselor, who runs the equine therapy program at Zuma’s Rescue Ranch.
Graves is referring to a teen who has been in the program for about 6 weeks. She’s a survivor of human trafficking and is working to put her life back together. She’s been working with a mustang named Fitzgerald, who was among 300 horses rescued in Alliance, Nebraska.
“He started showing some engagement when she started moving a ball around, and he was very curious, very engaged. But then it went over the line where he got a little scared, and she had to realize she had to dial her energy back and work to help him overcome that fear”, Graves explained about her work in the program.
Overcoming fear is what Zuma’s Rescue Ranch is all about. When a horse comes to the ranch, they start with an intake assessment and then for 30 to 60 days the horse just gets food and rest. Then they assess the horse’s health and begin the rehabilitation process.
“Some horses turn around in 30 to 60 days, and some horses, 5 and 6 years later, we’ve decided they’re going to be sanctuary because they’re just not ready to recover”, Messenich told CBS4.
About ten years ago, Messenich started pairing her rescued horses with young people who were struggling and found the connection is transformative.
The teen who was working with Fitzgerald wrote this about her experience:
“The first letter of my name starts with an ‘N’. With a glimpse of my hand is the only sign of my identity, invisible I am. This serenity I hold. Horses touch my soul for they’re never alone. I relate to their worries and woes, but the spark of curiosity reverses all shown, and unleashes the unshown. There’s more to those beautiful beasts than their intimidating appearance. When you take the time to know them, they can be your dearest companion.”
Zuma’s Rescue Ranch has one full-time and one part-time employee to keep the ranch running. It relies on the kindness of volunteers. Xcel Energy will be hosting one if it’s Day of Service projects at the ranch. It’s an opportunity for them to access a big group of volunteers at one time.
“When we rely on our volunteers and we scheduled groups we can get the big things that really make a difference done”, Messenich said.