Program uses Mustangs to help teach life skills

RENO, NV (KOLO) Kathy Yriarte and Josie Donahue are working with a couple 2-year-old Mustangs named Concho and Baxter. Next month they hope to enter them in a BLM program in Idaho called Mustang Mania.

The idea is to get these horses gentled enough so that another trainer can adopt them and take them to the next level. Josie says the process has taught her a lot about herself.

“They've taught me that if I'm not brave they aren't brave,” says Josie. “So when it comes to anything in general, you know I have to be the leader; I have to guide them through a lot of things and help them out,” she says.

Donahue says when it comes to some life skills, horses are great teachers.

At the Team Yriarte Horsemanship Facility, there are 20 formerly wild Mustangs, all at different levels of accepting human contact.

Once a week, four women who are victims of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation go there and work with the horses as part of the women's therapy.

“So by learning the skills to ask the horse to step back and create the boundary and say, “No this is my space; you can't come in here,” it builds the confidence in other realms and other parts of their lives,” says Awaken Equine Case Manager Kathy Yriarte.

Yriarte says the women and their therapist and case workers meet in a classroom on the grounds of the facility, and then go out and work with the horses of their choice.

“So generally people will say I am fine, I am not afraid, I am totally comfortable with this horse,” says Yriarte. “But the horse is flying around, not coming near them, doesn't want to touch them. And so that is usually a good sign that the horse is reflecting a fear that the person is not acknowledging,’ Yriarte continues. “And we see that with our students; we see that with the girls in the program. It is a very universal thing initially, especially with wild horses and these older horses in general,” she says.

They'll go back to the classroom and talk about their experiences for that day. If a client has an emotional breakthrough during her contact with the horse, she can go to the classroom again to regroup.

The program has only been going six months. The women have another year and a half in the program before they graduate.

By that time, this therapy, along with other programs, will hopefully give them the life skills they'll need to face with world with confidence.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019