TODAY   |  June 23, 2013

Rescued horses help children heal

Two dozen children spend their Saturdays with some of the 40 horses at Zuma’s rescue ranch outside of Denver. Some are foster kids, while others may be dealing with emotional trauma. Whatever they arrive with, the horses, who are in recovery themselves, help kids heal. TODAY’s Erica Hill reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> when a horse lowers their head towards you, that's a sign of trust.

>> 11-year-old avery has spent nearly a year gaining hershey's trust and offering his own in return.

>> i love you.

>> theirs is a quiet understanding born of mutual respect and need.

>> in their minds they're here helping these horses that have been abused and neglected and removed from their homes.

>> about two dozen children spend their saturdays with the 40 horses at zuma's rescue ranch just outside denver all here for different reasons. some, like avery , are foster children . others may have a tough time communicating or may be dealing with emotional raw ma. but whatever label they arrive with, are it's quickly cast aside. what does being with a horse do for kids?

>> it empowers them to feel more than the label they've been given by society. when you have an animal in need and a human in need and they come together, there's no expectation. horses heal the human spirit .

>> jody knows the healing power of horses firsthand, which is why she added a formal equine therapy program to a horse rescue ranch five years ago. zeal, zuma's equine assisted learning , was led by social workers and equine specialists though it's the horses to do the initial work, often bypassing weeks or months of traditional talk therapy in just the first meeting.

>> we might not know the cause of the behavior but we know almost instantly twhaes going on with a child by how the horse responds to them.

>> what started out nearly ten years ago as a horse rescue ranch has become a safe haven for kids. kids who find comfort and strength in these once bruised beasts and a place they can simply be themselves.

>> how do you think the horses help you? do you think they give you anything back?

>> i actually not really talk to people that much. but now i do since i've been in the program. and now i'm really good at speaking and everything and communicating.

>> it's official. i cannot see.

>> changes samuel's mom has noted in the three months she started the program.

>> he is definitely a lot happier, a lot more confident. he has a new sense of purpose in his walk now.

>> avery 's foster dad also notices a difference.

>> his confidence.

>> who do you think gets more out of the program, the horse, the children, or you?

>> i think it's ssymbiotic. of the horses are recovering and then the kids' testimonials i think we're all three succeeding and it's working.