Lodge woman's ranch aims to rescue youths, horses together

Lodge woman's ranch aims to rescue youths, horses together

LODGE — It's fitting that Faith is the name of Emily Reichman's first rescue horse. And that the word "hope" is in the title of an equine mentoring program she will launch for at-risk youth at her rural Piatt County home.

You see, it was a love of horses that kept her on the straight and narrow path after her parents divorced when she was 8 years old.

Now, Reichman wants others to know the power equines have in a therapeutic way at Hope Springs Rescue Ranch, located at her home just north of Lodge.

"Horses helped me through my parents' divorce, and so I know how powerful it is to have an animal like that help you with your struggle. I knew I wanted to use them in a career somehow but didn't know how," Reichman said.

At first, she wanted to become a veterinarian, and earned her animal science degree from the University of Illinois in 2010. That career path fell through, as did one as a technician at a vet clinic.

At that point, she fell back on her years of equine experience and began giving lessons in horse riding and dressage, something she did as a youth that involves a horse and rider performing a series of predetermined movements.

Then one day, a client suggested the possibility of using horses to provide therapy, most notably to youth. Before long, Reichman knew this was her calling — a faith-based business that would rescue horses and kids at the same time.

A new career calling

"I feel like this is where God has been pushing me. Every time I've tried to take a turn in another direction, there's been a road block there that pushed me this way," she said. "As soon as I started giving riding lessons, it slid right into this. There has been almost no resistance."

Hope Springs Rescue Ranch launches on May 1 and will provide services through September in its first year. Reichman is working with the Monticello school district for possible referrals.

"It is designed to help at-risk youth between the ages of 8 and 18 recover from trauma, build resilience and find purpose through equine-assisted learning and mentoring. We run four 90-minute sessions Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons where a student will work one-on-one with a leader and a horse, learning how to care for the animal and ride while developing leadership and relational skills," said Reichman, who grew up in Washington, Ill.

Equine therapy is aimed at helping youth gain a sense of responsibility and accountability as they help take care of horses, in addition to learning trust and being taught they are valuable.

"The label we use is at-risk, but basically any kid who seems like they're struggling at school or they have a hard time fitting in with their peers or (are) under-achievers, and especially for foster system kids," she said.

Breaking her own rules

The term "rescue" has a dual meaning — Reichman aims to rescue both youth and horses, and it started with Faith, the horse she rescued three years ago from being sent to a Kansas City slaughterhouse.

She broke some of her own rules when she came across Faith online.

"One of my rules is you never buy them online, and never buy them sight unseen," Reichman said.

In this case, she did both, sensing a gentle whisper telling her this horse belonged at her Piatt County homestead, where she lives with husband Russell and their six-month-old daughter.

Hence, the name Faith.

"The rules say you don't do this, but God doesn't really follow the rules," she said. "I was the only bid, so she would have gone to slaughter.

"I feel like a horse rescued me when I was little."

Now, she wants to provide that same method of rescue for others.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.