Rescue Horses Rescuing Youth
Horse and Rider|Spring 2020
At Charis Ranch, rescue horses are changing the lives of at-risk children.
JESSICA MORRIS

Two things have defined Tracy Cookman since childhood: her drive to help those unable to help themselves and her love of horses. In 2009, those two passions came together when she organized the rescue of 11 PMU foals from slaughter—an act that would shape her life. Rescuing horses became her mission. From auctions to feedlots to neglect cases, Cookman took in horses deemed broken then cast aside, and provided them sanctuary.

Though working with horses was rewarding, Cookman felt a calling to save more than just equines. In 2010, she began Charis Youth Ranch, a nonprofit program in the foothills of Northern Colorado that utilizes equine-assisted learning to help at-risk youth.

Her herd of 28 rescue horses was key. “I felt like the Lord made it clear to me that these broken horses would heal broken children,” she says.

Based on their shared passage through trauma, abuse, or neglect, a connection between youth and horse is forged.

Today, Charis Youth Ranch provides free programs for children who need support. They come from rehabilitation centers, the foster care system, and treatment facilities. Through working with horses and learning horsemanship skills, the program participants develop patience, kindness, and respect. They gain self-confidence, start making positive behavior changes, and begin their road to healing.

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