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Positively Colorado: Zuma's rescues horses and people during the pandemic

Zuma's Rescue Ranch in Littleton rescues abused and neglected horses. Those horses then help rescue people struggling with mental health issues.

LITTLETON, Colo. — For more than a decade, Zuma's Rescue Ranch, a non-profit in Littleton, has saved the lives of horses and other animals.

Many are abused, neglected or homeless and once they get to the ranch they go though therapy and are loved and nursed back to health. 

After they are healthy again, many are then adopted out to loving homes, but others stay to help with another mission: to help people struggling with mental health issues. It's called equine therapy and it can be very effective.

Therapist Carolyn Oldwage works with people facing different issues, including kids struggling with their identity, parents dealing with stress from money problems and veterans trying to cope with life after wars. They work with her and the horses to tackle their issues head-on.

Credit: Gary Shapiro

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Oldwage has seen an increase in business at Zuma's with more abandoned horses and more people needing help.

RELATED: From weight gain to our relationships, how the pandemic has changed us

"Maybe at first somebody is coming into the paddock with anxiety and fear," Oldwage said. "The horse will respond to that and over a few sessions that person is feeling more confident, and more safe. Suddenly the horse is approaching them in a different way, and this person feels loved and cared for." 

It's therapy for both the horse and human, which is a win-win.

Credit: Gary Shapiro

"Isolation is a huge risk factor for suicidal thinking, and that is the big risk right now. People feeling alone, isolated and scared," Oldwage said.  

Together they work through the issues. Together they get better and are rescued at the rescue ranch.

Zuma's carries on the work with the help of volunteers and donations. For more information, visit zumasrescueranch.com.

RELATED: Mental health and addiction resources for Colorado residents

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