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Seeds of Hope

The team at Mustard Seed Ranch believes that healing begins by gaining the trust of a horse

Article by Cassandra Green

Photography by Courtesy of Mustard Seed Ranch

Originally published in Parker City Lifestyle

What started as a ministry in 1999 has developed into a mental health program for at-risk youth who have experienced abuse or neglect. Mustard Seed Ranch provides equine-assisted psychotherapy specifically for youth who have experienced trauma. “As humans, we are wired for connection,” says Mallory Nicklas, Mustard Seed Ranch’s Colorado program director. “When that need isn’t met, it can be debilitating.” But Mallory is confident that there is hope in healing.

Mallory explains that MSR’s program is backed by in-depth research from which a unique 16-week curriculum was developed to help rebuild trust for at-risk youth throughout California and Colorado. “So many are facing mental health challenges right now,” Mallory says. “At-risk youth are struggling with depression and anxiety. They don’t feel supported in their environments. Many of them are out of home placements. They don’t have an understanding of healthy, trusting relationships because they were never given that chance.” MSR’s goal is to get them out of where they are feeling stuck and bring them to a place where they can take a breath, feel safe and heal.

The program includes weekly meetings where struggling youngsters work with the same horse each time they visit. They get to know their horse by simply being in the same space. As trust builds, these encounters progress into haltering, leading, and later a series of more independent activities until they become self-sufficient.

When the participants can build a trusting relationship with their horse, they start to learn how to do the same with people. It’s as if they have a 1,200-pound reminder that they are worthy of love and connection. After all, a horse doesn’t define anyone by their past or present struggles. Mallory and the team at MSR encourage them to take a positive inventory of their life. “There is always hope,” she says.

Mustard Seed Ranch builds from a pure heart to help. To reach those in need, MSR relies on volunteers and doesn’t charge for their services. Due to a lack of residential treatment facilities, most of their funding now comes from a community effort. They fund their program by sharing their story with counties and schools as well as networking with foster parents.

During the month of May, MSR will be fundraising through a mental health campaign called “Seen Through Horses.” If you’re interested in helping at-risk youth rebuild their lives, you can visit and follow them on social by searching @mustardseedranchinc.