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Therapeutic horse program helps abuse victims

2:31 PM, Dec 24, 2013   |    comments
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LONGMONT - For abuse victims like Angie VanHeel, it takes a lifetime of working toward healing, forgiving and moving forward: all of which don't come easy.

VanHeel was sexually abused as a child.

She grew up with anger and trust issues and has spent most of her life searching for something that would help her deal with her past and look to the future.

She found a therapeutic program out of Longmont called Horses Mending Hearts which pairs up abused horses with abuse survivors.

The program creator and owner, Debra Thomas, was also abused as a child and at an early age found peace and what she calls "healing powers" with horses.

Thomas has spent the last 25 years working with abuse survivors and those with PTSD to create the program.

"We spent a lot of time working and talking with the students about awareness of their outward environment and awareness of their inward environment. We spend a lot of time teaching people how to find an appropriate boundary and become empowered again, and then we were related to the horses because horses are amazing at setting boundaries. A lot of this training is helping them stay congruent and stay congruent in their heart mind and soul and the horses see you as whole and perfect," Thomas said.

And the connection is even stronger because of the horses' backgrounds.

"These horses come from abandonment, starvation, neglect, sometimes abuse, and that's why students to go through the program are very, very attracted to the horses because they know what the horses have been through," Thomas said.

For VanHeel, the program hasn't been a fix-all, but it has started moving her in the right direction.

"The biggest transformation that I had with healing with horses was ... learning to center myself and become more calm, and the horses allow you to be in touch with your emotions which is something that I didn't like to do in the past," VanHeel said.

The weekend-long class costs $325, but they have grants and funding to help those who need it.

The classes start back up in the spring.

To learn more about the Horses Mending Hearts program go to,

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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