The cold, north wind chilled the almost lifeless young horses as they lay in the filth of the dark stalls in a Texas City stables. Animal Control and Habitat for Horses employees worked by flashlight to place them on sleds and drag them to the waiting trailers. Three other bone-thin horses walked on their own, all of them taken immediately to an equine veterinarian with hopes that their life could be restored from the ravages of starvation.

In a scene too often repeated in Galveston County, a few horse owners neglect or abuse their horses to the point of death. Law enforcement agencies and Habitat for Horses have worked hand-in-hand for the last 15 years to both educate owners about the level of care needed to maintain healthy horses and, when education fails or is resisted, to remove the horses through the enforcement of animal abuse laws.

The long road to rehabilitation begins on the Habitat for Horses ranch in Hitchcock where veterinarians, equine dentists and farriers attempt to bring the horses back to health, and the adoption staff finds homes where the horses are shown love and respect.

As with horses, violence is a choice. Victims of domestic violence often endure their pain alone, in the dark of night or in full view of the public. Abuse has no societal boundaries.

The effects of abuse are not always obvious and may not manifest for many years. Once the victim has chosen to come forward, the first concern should be for the victim to not be re-victimized.

That is where Habitat for Horses and licensed professional counselor Pam Hansen come in.

Hansen and Habitat have joined forces to bring individual, family and group counseling to Galveston County. In addition to providing services for victims of domestic violence, services will also be provided to adults and children of sexual assault, abuse and neglect.

Horses don’t lie. They reflect back the exact feelings that a human presents to them. By utilizing that attribute under the guidance of a licensed counselor, a client quickly becomes aware of the psychological patterns that cause a wide variety of personal issues.

Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy provides an opportunity to interact with a living, feeling being without risking or fearing human interaction.

Using the horse as a therapeutic medium, the individual has the opportunity to rebuild trust and self-esteem and learn the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries, just to name a few advantages. Whether or not an individual chooses to ride, sometimes just being around the horses in a therapeutic environment is the start to becoming “whole” again.

If you are a victim of abuse, please give our organization a call at 409-692-6068 or 409-935-0277. We are there and are ready to respond.

Guest column

Jerry Finch is the founder and director of Habitat for Horses and Pam Hansen is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Habitat for Horses.

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