Selah survivors come to our program with debilitating anxiety stemming from the trauma of being trafficked. Their traumas leave a painful trail of lack of self-confidence, rejection, anger, or any number of other issues.
Selah’s Equine Therapy is meant to bring healing to the women by teaching them to cope using horse training to teach life lessons in topics such as building healthy relationships and overcoming fear and self-soothing techniques. As the women reflect on their success and failures in the horse corral, they learn to apply what they’ve learned to their everyday lives.
Statistics tell us that horses are especially helpful in many different types of therapy because they are attuned to human emotions and are often reflective of their handler’s mental state.
Over the past three years while working for Selah Freedom, I have witnessed many of our survivors of sex trafficking attend equine therapy at Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy also known as S.M.A.R.T. The results are astounding.
Samantha Toomey who is the lead riding instructor and barn manager helps our women (many of whom have a fear of large horses) acclimate to being around such large majestic animals, and once they do get acclimated it is a beautiful unfolding of a wonderful relationship about building trust and understanding. "Animal's don't judge and that gives people freedom to be themselves" Sam often says.
Many of our survivors have told me throughout the years horse therapy is what keeps them going in our program and the strong connection they feel with the horses is something in which they look forward. We appreciate our partnership with S.M.A.R.T and the bridge it builds for our survivors to learn fundamentals of trust, bonding and genuine acceptance of who they are. Some of the feedback I’ve heard from our residents include:
"I would have left before now if it wasn't for horse therapy."
"The smell out here reminds me of a moment in my life I like to remember. "
"My heart is very warm about horse therapy it is what I needed Spiritually."
"It helps me be more in control and trusting. "
"Horse therapy means honesty and authenticity to me."
"For me, being around horses builds a confidence I didn't have before. At first, I just saw it as a bigger animal and it made me a little scared because it was more dominant than me. After spending time with it, and learning how gentle it is, I have learned to be more confident because I have to lead the horse."
It takes a wild, fearless, and persistent hope to overcome the horrors of sex trafficking. But we are reminded that through our horse therapy program and the many other therapies used for healing, recovery is possible.
~ Kayla Mandzik Selah Freedom, Residential Coordinator