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Eagle’s Nest Ranch aims to be place of healing

Horse ministry helps people who are struggling, including military veterans

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Eagle’s Nest Ranch ministry in northern Elizabeth is set on the rolling hills just outside Parker, with Indian paintbrush wildflowers and wish-blows mixed into the blowing grasses.

“We’re a horse ranch ministry giving people who are struggling with adversity an opportunity to interact with horses, and to find some hope and healing,” Suzy MacKenzie explained. She specifically avoids the term “equine therapy” since “it’s not clinical therapy,” she said.

When MacKenzie founded Eagle’s Nest Ranch three years ago, she was at a crossroads in her own life. She had been a missionary for “a long time” in South America and had worked 13 years at a nonprofit. Since she had always loved horses — she had owned horses on and off throughout her life — she was drawn to read the book “Hope Rising” by Kim Meeder, about a horse ranch in Oregon that provides opportunities for humans and horses to bond, and enabling emotional healing.

“Oh my goodness, this is exactly what I want to do, combining my two passions, horses and people,” she thought.

“If a child has broken human relationships, they build trust with an animal and it transfers to human relationships. When someone is hurting, when you help someone it helps you as well,” MacKenzie said.

She modeled Eagle’s Nest Ranch after Meeder’s Oregon Ranch of Rescued Dreams.

The ranch has an anthem verse from the Bible, found in Psalm 59:10, “My God in His steadfast love will meet me.”

There are two kinds of programs at Eagle’s Nest, the Soaring program for non-military participants and the Healing Horses for the Armed Forces, which attracts veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“With the veterans there’s a 22-a-day suicide rate,” MacKenzie said. “I’d love it if we could make a difference for people coming here.”

Desert Storm Marine veteran Chris Boyer visits the ranch regularly.

“It’s brought me a definite amount of peace and calming,” said Boyer, a car salesman who lives in Highlands Ranch.

“I have PTSD, and it’s a daily thing,” Boyer said. “I try to use every advantage I can — exercise, church, the ranch, counseling, meds.”

“The ranch is one of the things that brings a real calming effect,” Boyer said.

This summer Eagle’s Nest Ranch is hosting Buckaroo Days, a program specifically for first responders’ kids ages 7 to 12 years old.

Eagle’s Nest Ranch is a 501(c)(3) and does not charge admission.

“I view it as a ministry, we function totally on donations,” MacKenzie said.

Though she has five horses, there is room for many more at the ranch. The facility MacKenzie uses is provided by Life Centre Ministries. She lives in a guest house connected to the stable.

Someone to donate or free-lease a horse would be at the top of her wish list for the ministry. The ideal would be “a safe and sound gelding for a beginning rider, between 8 and 15 years old,” she said.

Eagle’s Nest Ranch also has space for volunteers who are able to help with the children and “walk them through the day,” MacKenzie said.

“Taking the kids through the day through the different activities, crafts, hayrides, groom a horse,” are tasks she would like to be able to delegate.

She also needs need horse-handler volunteers and is looking for sponsors to help with the expenses of putting on events like Buckaroo Days.

“Right now I’m still carrying a lot of the load — there’s a lot to think of when you’re running a non-profit and doing the admin part,” MacKenzie said.

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