Overcoming Sexual Abuse through Horses

Overcoming Sexual Abuse through Horses

My life has been a whirlwind, and I have struggled since I was 10 years old when I was sexually abused by my soccer coach while my dad was stationed on a military base in the Air Force. I was traumatized at a very young age, but also felt an obligation and responsibility to protect my family from my abuser who had sworn to hurt and kill my friends and family, holding me at gunpoint during one of the assaults. From that time, I kept that dark secret from all that I truly loved and cared about for eight years and no longer trusted adults who came into my life. I became ill from the trauma, which presented itself in real physical illnesses and injuries with no actual diagnosis or cause. These would baffle myself, my family, and the medical doctors. Many times the doctors would suspect abuse, but I would lie to avoid revealing my secret. This continued from the time I was abused to my senior year of high school. Eventually I learned to trust a close friend who helped me tell my parents.

But, my journey didn’t stop there. I went to college, where I thought I could handle the stress, social life, and school work as well as a military investigation to prosecute my abuser. I was completely wrong. I literally crashed and burned, disappointing my parents and making some very bad choices along the way. My struggling relationship with my parents broke even more until someone helped me break off a very negative social relationship and get professional help for my PTSD and depression.

I went to psychiatric facility for two weeks, followed by three months in a rehabilitation facility where I struggled with PTSD, depression, and anxiety, as well as poor self-esteem, lack of trust, and a lot of anger issues. When I left, I came to Utah because I didn’t want to stay with my parents. I had a lot of anger directed towards them.

While in Utah, I had a great aunt who had heard about Bridle Up Hope. She quickly contacted the Bridle Up Hope Program Director and tried to see if I could get into the program. There wasn’t any room initially, but I could start as a volunteer and eventually begin the program. Soon I started to come and volunteer. The very first day I came to the barn, I was struggling a lot. I was questioning if I really wanted to do this and if this could really help. I was lost and in a really dark place in life.

I decided just to muck out stalls because then I could meet the horses, and I wouldn’t have to talk to many of the other volunteers. I went over to muck out the stall of a horse named Jamaica. He is absolutely beautiful. I was close to tears as I could feel my emotions and memories gnawing at me. As I was mucking out his stall, he came up to me and started to cuddle with me. He came and showed me unconditional love. This beautiful animal could sense that I felt like I had no one in the world, and that I just needed love—pure love.  

As I went through the Bridle Up Hope program, Jamaica and I continued to strengthen our bond, and I grew in confidence and happiness. My PTSD symptoms decreased as well as my anxiety and depression. It became a place where I looked forward to going every single week. I love to ride Jamaica. I have been learning to properly trot. The first time that I was trotting, Jamaica went into a canter. After I had slowed him down, my amazing instructor told me how Jamaica had been having issues and doesn’t ever like to break into a canter. She said that whoever had owned him previously would fall off and had traumatized him. Instead of continuing to let them ride, Jamaica would rather not canter to protect the rider. He did not trust the rider.

Again, the following lesson, Jamaica went straight into a canter at first when I prompted him trot. At first I thought it was a fluke, but then I realized that he had truly learned to trust me. And I have learned to trust him. Jamaica’s personality shines through now. Whenever I am grooming him and need to clean his hooves, he will pick up the opposite hoof that I am trying to pick up, just to make me laugh. Whenever I am riding him, he always is listening to me and wants to be with me. Whenever I let him roll in the arena after riding him, he will always come up and nudge me when he is ready to go back to his stall. I truly love this horse. He has taught me to trust and love again.

More importantly, I have never been so happy in my entire life. I know what it is like to live in deep despair and darkness, and now I know what it is like to live in the light and sunshine.

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