Unbridled Hope equine program benefits foster children at the Heart of Florida Youth Ranch.
Trust can come in many shapes and forms. At Citra-based Heart of Florida Youth Ranch, it’s the four-legged kind—more specifically, the Unbridled Hope Equine Program.
“The foster kids who come to the Heart of Florida Youth Ranch have been removed from their families for a variety of reasons. These include neglect, abandonment, as well as physical, mental and sexual abuse,” says Jenna Rovira, coordinator of Equine Services. “This trauma and loss results in major trust issues for these children. Through the Unbridled Hope Equine Program, we use being around, working with and riding horses as a way to restore that lost trust.”
Licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Heart of Florida Youth Ranch is a private 501(c)(3) non-profit organization contracted with Kids Central Inc. The Unbridled Hope Equine Program, a registered Professional Association of Therapeutic International Member Center, operates under the umbrella of the Heart of Florida Youth Ranch. Brenda Corujo-Orraca, a certified PATH International instructor, serves as the Unbridled Hope equine program director.
“Brenda and I began the PATH certification process in late 2016,” says Rovira, a lifelong horsewoman. “We began our first six-week session in February 2017. We currently have 26 kids, ranging from 5 to 18, involved in the equine program. Many of them, depending on how long they are with us, go through more than one six-week session.”
Corujo-Orraca notes, “Not only do the kids learn about horses, but they learn about themselves and others. They learn by having a relationship with a horse how to have better relationships with people, too.”
The six-week sessions, three days a week, involve ground work, equine care and riding of the program’s eight horses. All the horses were donated and then retrained to fit into the equine program.
“We try to match up the kids with horses that best suit each’s personality,” says Rovira. “As each child works with a horse through the program, they begin to make a connection with the horse. They feel empowered to be taking care of something that depends on them. They develop better self-awareness and start to trust again.”
To which Corujo-Orraca adds, “The children feel connected again to something. They form bonds with the horses and the program volunteers. We’ve seen some wonderful transformations in these kids. We’ve seen them regain trust and hope.”
Want To Help? › The Unbridled Hope Equine Program is always looking for volunteers, equine supplies donations and sponsorships. › For more information, contact: Jenna Rovira at (352) 595-7100 or (352) 443-2534 or Brenda Corujo-Orraca at (352) 425-0709 › [email protected]