ELIZABETH, Colorado — Tracy Boone and her 13-year-old son Elijah, from Colorado, have been working with horses for almost seven years.
They aren't experts at roping, and they don't always ride. The Boones specialize in equine-assisted therapy -- therapy with horses.
"This work is so unique and it is so powerful," Tracy Boone said. "Horses can understand your emotions. They respond to it."
Boone described a horse's response as a mirror of yourself. Horses can pick up on anxiety, depression, traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues and a range of other mental health problems and past traumas.
"You get someone with anxiety like we had, and you walk up to a horse and you just even start brushing it, right? It calms you and you start to get into connection again," she said.
"By opening up to a horse, it can translate into your life."
This therapy was exactly what Boone and Elijah said they needed to bring them back from a dark place.
"Back in 2012, we lost our fairytale," Boone said. "We lost our happily ever after when my husband Reid Boone died of a horrible brain disease."
It happened suddenly just two days before Christmas.
Elijah was 6 years old.
"All I remember is everything fun went away, and he was starting to get into accidents," Elijah said.
He still recalls the memories of his father in his final days. Memories, he said, are still very vivid.
"Whenever you go through a traumatic experience you can’t forget it. It’s like a scar," Elijah said. "It’s with you. Over time it heals, but it never really goes away."
The loss hit Boone and Elijah very hard.
"He was struggling. We both were struggling," Boone said. "Between grief and trauma, it was agonizing."
Boone said she was determined to find the right resources, so she and her son could begin the healing process. A new widow, Boone quickly learned her options were few and difficult to find.
So when a hospice nurse handed Boone a stack of brochures with options for therapy groups and counseling sessions, she worried it wouldn't be the healing experience her young son needed.
"After everything we had been through, I looked at my 6-year-old son, and I couldn’t picture him in an office [therapy] right out of the gate. I just couldn’t picture it," Boone said. "But I looked through the brochures and stumbled on one with a picture of a man and a horse."
Relieved, Boone selected the brochure for equine-assisted therapy, thus beginning a love affair with horses that Boone and Elijah said changed them forever.
"It’s definitely changed and transformed our life, and it’s given us a purpose," Boone said.
It has become much more than just their own therapy. In 2016, Boone and Elijah created Elijah’s Path to Healing Foundation.
"We want to go out and help all those kids who have lost a parent get through their grief and trauma," Elijah said.
The mission of the foundation is to provide resources to grieving widows and children who have lost a parent — resources like equine-assisted therapy, workshops and retreats, prayer groups, access to medical practitioners who specialize in children’s development needs, grief therapists, financial advisors and even a photographer for new family portraits.
Because Boone and Elijah lived it, they are offering the resources they believe families most need in their time of grief. For more, visit Elijah’s Path to Healing Foundation.
"If you’re a widow or you’re a fatherless child, just know that we’re coming and if you need our help, please contact us," Boone said with tears in her eyes.
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