How can a horse imbue confidence in a little girl traumatized by an unknown past?

“We went to China to pick her up when she was 19 months old,” says Robert, Amanda’s adoptive father. “She’d previously had surgery on her cleft lip and was scheduled to have work done on her palate.”

That was eight years ago. And although Robert and his wife, Lisa, don’t know the breadth of the pain their daughter experienced at the orphanage, they do know it scarred her deeply.

Her meltdowns began almost instantly, triggered by lights, televisions, movies, and a litany of other things, says Robert.

“At times, she’s terrified by the small red light on our motion detector in the house. She won’t walk near it.”

At the suggestion of their therapist, the family enrolled Amanda at Hope Reins hoping some of her fear could be overcome.

“She was nervous about talking or answering questions, so we agreed on a signal she’d give me if she felt uncomfortable,” says her mentor, Heather.

Week after week, Amanda slowly conquered her fear of speaking to Heather.

“Amanda is brilliant. She started sharing with me all the research she’d done on the breeds in our herd.”

She also worked up the courage to brush some of the horses. “It was hard to find one that matched her emotions,” says Heather. “Horses sense the intensity of hardship from humans.”

Then, along came a hero.

As one of the newest members of the Hope Reins herd, Hero possesses the innate ability to filter out the elevated emotions that can accompany those facing trauma.

“I couldn’t believe the change in her demeanor around Hero. She stood tall on the mounting block and brushed him.”

The next step was riding, and Amanda fearlessly climbed atop Hero with a huge smile.

“She said riding is like a mathematical equation,” laughs Heather.  “Intuitively, she understands how the horse’s rhythm helps her brain regulate to think clearer.”

Robert and Lisa realize there’s still a long journey of healing ahead for Amanda.

But they also sense a change.

“The other morning, I went to wake her for school and much to my surprise she wasn’t in her bedroom,” says Robert.

“Usually, mornings are terribly hard. I struggle to get her out of bed.

But it was different this time. I couldn’t find her at first, then realized she was downstairs completely dressed and ready for school. I was floored.”

What’s most remarkable, according to Robert, is that Amanda had walked past the red light, all by herself.

Editor’s Note: You support Amanda in Step 1 of the Pathway to Resilience where she receives weekly one-on-one sessions.

In Hope,

Kim Tschirret
Founder & CEO
Hope Reins