Arizona Giving and Leading: Reigning Grace

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See how a local program, Reigning Grace, uses horses to help kids get their self-esteem back in the saddle again.

Steve Goldstein: In tonight's giving and leading segment, a look at a program that is helping children build self-esteem and self-worth. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Steve Aaron take us to reigning grace ranch.

Shana Fischer: On the outskirts of north Scottsdale, sits reigning grace ranch. Miles away from the real world, and that's exactly what the kids who come to the ranch need.

Maggie: Being able to stay connected to the -- get connected to the horses, it is just really nice.

Shana Fischer: Maggie is one of a dozen kids who come out here every Saturday to interact with the horses, and, in turn, learn about themselves. All of the kids have emotional issues. Issues that make them easy targets at school for bullying or ripe for trouble at home. Here at the ranch, they learn how to deal with the feelings.

Amanda Moore: The kids come here and work together with our horses and they grow together.

Shana Fischer: Reigning grace's owner, Amanda Moore, has worked with children her entire life. First as a teacher. And now as a life coach. Amanda and her husband, Chris, bought the ranch for the sole purpose of helping children who were vulnerable. They knew horses were the key.

Amanda Moore: We always say actions speak louder than words. The horses see that and they can automatically scan a person and know where they are by the way they are carrying themselves, by the way they're breathing, everything. You don't even need to tell me, because the horse is going to mirror that because that is what they do.

Shana Fischer: Each child is paired with a mentor. The two start the day grooming the horse, a task that requires tenacity, perseverance, and most importantly, building trust with the horse. Getting a 2,000 pound animal to listen to a child is challenging, but that's the point. These kids have never believed in themselves until now. Maggie's mother Dee Dee says she sees a huge change in her daughter.

Dee Dee: She cannot be manipulative with the horse. She cannot fly into a rage to get the horse to do what she wants. So, she has had to learn how to just be calm and at peace and it has helped her tremendously. When I adopted her out of foster care four years ago, she had something called reactive attachment disorder, which is caused by severe abuse and neglect. So, she was extremely violent, argumentative, defiant, manipulative.

Shana Fischer: Dee Dee did her research and discovered that horse therapy did wonders with kids like Maggie.

Dee Dee: I am so thrilled that a horse has done more for her than any therapist has ever done for her. She is not as defiant anymore. She hasn't had an outburst in anger in two years.

Shana Fischer: Once they groom their horses, the kids head to the arena for the day's lesson.

Amanda Mooer: We are going to go to a bucket. Mentors, I want you to take your child to each bucket. And they have to draw a card out of the bucket, and there might be a truth on it or there might be a lie on it. And you have to decide whether you are going to accept it and own it, or leave it.

Shana Fischer: Every lesson is designed to build self-esteem. The horse is there to keep them honest.

Amanda Moore: If they don't acknowledge it and they work with the horse, the horse is like you're lying. Something is wrong.

Shana Fischer: At reigning grace, it is not just the kids who need to be rescued.

Amanda Moore: We sometimes have horses that come from a very abusive history of neglect, could be neglect, abuse, a myriad of things, but -- and our kids some from similar things like that, and when they come together here, everything is perfect. So they learn that they're not damaged. They have a chance to become something bigger.

Shana Fischer: And after years of feeling not good enough, it's a welcome lesson for these kids.

Maggie: I'm proud of how much I have improved. When I'm on the horse, it feels like I plug into the horse. I mean, you know, just really nice. You really connect. You can feel the horse breathing. You can feel their heartbeat. It is amazing.

Amanda Moore: It's telling those kids, if this is what you want to be, then that is what you can do. You just have to put your mind to it and you are worthy and you are important.

Steve Goldstein: Reigning grace also works with law enforcement and soldiers who have PTSD. If you would like more information on reigning grace, visit their web site. The address is on the screen.

Video: We want to hear from you. Submit your questions, comments, and concerns via email at Arizona horizon.

Steve Goldstein: Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon", it's our weekly update of state legislative activity. And get caught up on issues from south of the GILA in our monthly feature "Southern Exposure." that's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." I'm Steve Goldstein in for Ted Simons. Have a great night.

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