Youths and young adults ride tall with Saddle of Love’s equine assisted therapy
Season Cain encourages kids and young adults to mount up and participate in some therapy sessions at her new Saddle of Love ranch in Silver Creek.
Cain — a licensed clinical social worker — offers equine-assisted psychotherapy, horticulture and culinary classes to people ages 8 to 24.
The reason Cain focuses on those ages is because the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 is suicide, with homicide being the first, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Research shows there are several protective factors that can help self-harm or suicide,” Cain said. “We have to start teaching these positive coping skills at young ages so they don’t resort to maladaptive coping skills — substance abuse and self-harm.”
Individual sessions, which are held one hour a week for seven or 14 weeks, are led by Cain and Alejandra Lara, founder of the Park City Horse Experience and its equine assisted learning program.
These sessions include psychotherapy and riding lessons, Cain said.
“We’ll also take them on trail rides in the trees, and teach life lessons through the skills they learn through riding,” she said. “We use the horses as partners to teach youth assertiveness, confidence, healthy coping and problem-solving skills and conflict resolution skills.”
In addition, Cain creates obstacle courses in the ranch’s riding arena.
“The kids have to find ways to get their horses to listen to them in order to go through the course,” she said. “This exercise can elicit some frustration, which is good, because we’ll ask them how they will solve that problem so the horse will work with them.”
Cain will show the participants how to apply those problem-solving solutions to real-life situations.
“The kids learn how to calm down, take deep breaths and work through difficult times, because working with horses builds frustration tolerance, which, in turn, builds self-esteem, reduces anxiety and depression,” she said.
The horticulture and culinary classes, which also run one hour every week, are led by Olivia D’Agostino, who earned her culinary arts certification from the Park City Culinary Institute.
“These classes will encourage positive social relationships,” Cain said.
D’Agostino will gather two to three kids by age, and take them out to the barn where they can milk a goat, according to Cain.
“The kids will take the milk to our outdoor kitchen and they will make milkshakes, ricotta cheese and homemade ravioli with tomatoes they pick from our garden,” she said. “Then they will sit down together and eat what they make.”
The addition to the gardening and cooking classes came naturally, Cain said.
“Research shows there are many mental health benefits of cooking and gardening,” Cain said. “It also shows that there are benefits of being outside in nature and getting our hands dirty and being with animals.”
Saddle of Love also features a safe, wireless volunteer program.
“Volunteers can come in, check in their cellphones and we play loud music in the barn while they hang out with animals, get dirty and muck some stalls,” Cain said. “I wanted to offer them an alternative to being out there getting into trouble or wasting time on their cellphones, with no social interaction.”
Saddle of Love follows COVID-19 safety protocols during all of its programs.
“Everything is done or in big spaces,” Cain said. “Everyone has to wear masks, and we limit group sizes to no more than three people at a time.”
Registration for all sessions is now open at saddleoflove.org or by emailing saddleoflove.com.
Cain has wanted to open a therapeutic ranch since she was a child growing up in Honeyville.
“We had many horses and other animals, and I always felt that therapeutic power my horses gave me when I was with them,” she said. “Back then we didn’t have the scientific research we have now that has proven these therapeutic benefits, but I knew.”
With her eye on her goal, Cain became a licensed clinical social worker 20 years ago, and began working with children, teens and families.
“Throughout the years, I saved money to get my ranch, and finally, the dream came to fruition two months ago,” she said. “I’ve never been happier in my life. This has been my dream. I’m so grateful to finally offer this place, this ranch, a safe and therapeutic setting to the youth.”
Since Saddle of Love is a nonprofit, Cain relies on donations and sponsorships to meet the needs of her clients.
Donors and sponsors can contact Cain through the website, and all donations are tax deductible, she said.
“We are currently seeking sponsors who would be willing to provide scholarships,” she said. “I have a waitlist of at-risk youths from low-income families who would benefit from the program.”
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