Simply put, Bridle Up Hope saved my life. When I first started the program, I had just come out of a residential eating disorder facility, and my life was falling apart. It was my senior year of high school and it seemed like everything that I had to look forward to was taken away from me. Not having my eating disorder to "rely" on, my depression hit me like a ton of bricks. Going back to school after not being there the first term was especially difficult for me–I didn't feel like I had a place anywhere. I felt so lost and alone, and I didn't want to go on anymore, I was ready to end it all. At this point I started resorting to other unhealthy coping mechanisms and my parents were really concerned for me. That is when my mom remembered a program that one of our friends had done a couple of years ago: Bridle Up Hope. Excited, my parents brought me to the property after picking me up from PHP (partial hospitalization program) and as soon as we entered the grounds, I had a glimmer of a feeling I had not felt in a long time: hope.
Starting up the program I was really nervous, I have always had a difficult time starting new things, meeting new people, going to a new place, and this was very new. I was stressed but excited. I have always loved horses and I was excited that after years of begging for horse-back riding lessons, it was finally a reality. My first day I waited for my instructor and met Hannah, she was a bright ray of sunshine. She was so authentic and kind that it honestly made me nervous at first. Hannah took me back and we began our lesson. During this first lesson, I remember Hannah telling me that horses could see past all the walls that you put up for yourself; that made me nervous because I had a lot of walls that I didn't want anyone to get into, but then we went and got Chance. What happened to me at this moment is indescribable, I could feel my heart soften as Chance let me love on him and take him out with the lead rope. Chance didn't care what my past was, he didn't care that I struggled with my sense of self-worth, he just took me for me, no judgments. When I was walking Chance out, I didn't realize it but my eyes were looking at my feet, and Hannah told me to look up so that Chance knew that he could trust me. Hannah shared that she wished that we could all remember to lift our heads up all the time, just like we were leading a horse, so I tried to put that into practice. It was hard at first, looking up at people down the hallways instead of at my feet, but when it was hard, I would remember the love that Chance so freely gave me and I would walk taller.
Throughout the weeks following when I was struggling to even make it through the day, I would think to myself if I can just make it through the week, I can go do another lesson, just make it through the end of the week. Things didn't get better overnight, but I slowly found myself being able to let go of my negative coping mechanisms, and I started smiling again, something I hadn’t done in a long time, and that felt good. I started to feel like things could get better, like maybe I was worth something, maybe I am beautiful, maybe I didn't have to be perfect to be loved, maybe life is worth it, maybe I can be confident for just being me, maybe I didn't have to hide behind all my walls anymore. Bridle Up Hope has not solved all my problems, but the things I have learned and the experiences I have had have taught me that I can get through my struggles, not just go through my struggles. Thank you to all the service leads who showed me kindness, Hannah and Sarah, my wonderful instructors, and thank you to Bridle Up Hope for giving me my life back.