You don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
Just ask the children who reach out to connect with one of the horses at Broken Creek Youth Ranch. You can see this truth in their eyes, and their smiles, without asking.
The horses, part of the equine therapy offered at the ranch, remind the participants that they are wonderful and that they have something to offer the world no one else can. The children who take classes or receive therapy at the non-profit ranch, located just east of St. Joseph, Mo., also have a great deal of wisdom and insight to share back. Most have a disability, ranging from physical delays to speech or motor delays, or have disabilities along the autism spectrum. Some have specific mental health challenges, such as anger or mood disorders or have lived through past experiences of abuse or neglect. All seem to feel a special connection to the horses, and demonstrate their bond in their own unique ways.
Last year, a young girl receiving therapy at Broken Creek Youth Ranch asked why her horse had large scars. The leader explained that the horse had survived skin cancer and several surgeries. Gently resting her hand on the horse, she said “you don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” It’s a lesson this participant learned while growing up with a cleft palette and not receiving corrective surgery.
Broken Creek Youth Ranch is certified to provide equine therapy for youth with disabilities or special needs using the PATH curriculum and the SpiritHorse therapeutic riding program. There is no cost for a child with a disability to participate, and new therapies are explored all the time – such as helping children who can’t leave their wheelchairs to drive a team of horses from a custom buggy. Other participants soon find their own riding style that brings freedom and joy, such as riding sideways, backwards or without a saddle.
“As the children show their individual expression toward riding, and find their own way to create that balance between the horse and rider, they find freedom. They also experience life just as a child without a disability would, and it changes their lives,” says the team at Broken Creek.
Corporate retreats are also offered, and the ranch exists solely on grants, volunteers and donations. The numbers of participants grows each year, with noted benefits toward the children’s ability to handle challenges, work on skills like strength and balance, build self-confidence and improve communication.
Broken Creek Youth Ranch stands as a reminder that with some innovation, a generous community and a little sheer grit, almost any dream is possible.