Suzie McKenzie runs the nonprofit Eagle's Nest Ranch in Elizabeth. The ranch's mission is to connect people facing adversity and emotional trauma with horses. According to Suzie, “Spending time …
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Suzie McKenzie runs the nonprofit Eagle's Nest Ranch in Elizabeth. The ranch's mission is to connect people facing adversity and emotional trauma with horses. According to Suzie, “Spending time with the horses helps the healing begin.”
Suzie wanted to offer her services to military families and the name Eagle's Nest resonated with her — the eagle being a military symbol and a nest representing a haven for nurturing and a place from which to soar when the time is right.
Horses are Suzie's therapeutic animals of choice because, as she says, “They do not have an agenda but are in the moment and respond to each person according to the chemistry of the encounter and judging if they feel safe and can trust the individual. If a person is too aggressive or acting in an odd manner the horse will retreat. This sends a loud message and behaviors change.”
Eagle's Nest Ranch moved to a larger property last summer allowing Suzie to enlarge the program and offer services to more people.
Suzie elaborates on the program's fundamentals in an interview with the Elbert County News.
When and how did you move to the new location happen?
We bought the land last September, drawn to all the trees and the peace and quiet. A board member at Save the Cowboy ministry felt inspired to buy the land and house the program.
How has the move benefited your program?
We now have room for more sessions, horses and an indoor arena for training. The indoor arena provides for sessions even in the heat, wind and bad weather. If it is muddy outside and the footing is bad and dangerous for the horses, we can make space inside.
What type of sessions do you offer?
The sessions are 90 minutes, and last year we had 100 sessions and hope to triple that this year with additional volunteers. We do chores first and the balance of the time is spent with one of the horses learning some horsemanship (grooming, etc.) and doing ground work. We have group sessions and one-on-one sessions which give that personal attention. Sessions will begin again in May.
What groups do you serve and how?
We serve children from the Sun Valley Youth Center in Denver at the ranch and we have from five to 25 kids each time. We continue to serve veterans and have worked with the Denver VA Medical Center, who have brought veterans to Eagle's Nest for two or three years. We hope to take our horse, Hope, inside the VA hospital and other places where people might benefit.
How many horses do you have and how do you acquire them?
We have nine horses, some of which are adopted rescue horses. We have a secondary program, Horses in Hardship, to help horses as we do people. We got one animal from the Cow Hand Auction and adopted Hope from Hearts of Hope in Franktown.
How do you pair up horses with a person?
I tell each newcomer the horses' stories and allow them to work with their horse of choice. Visitors gravitate to the horse whose story resonates with them and their experiences. For instance, Starlight, is smaller, quiet and less intimidating for children. Hope however, has had medical trauma which others can understand.
How many volunteers do you currently have and is there a need for more?
The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization of veterans who want to continue to serve and volunteers here. The American Legion is very supportive and they have served as honor guard for our flag dedication ceremony, manned their Burger Burn to feed volunteers, and we use their facility for our Christmas cards for troops event. We have over 50 volunteers but need volunteers who can come on regular basis. We want to establish a new program called the Monday Morning Men team of retired men to help with general maintenance.
What events are coming up?
We will have the First Responder Buckaroo Days this summer to honor and support the first responders community which includes firefighters, police, dispatchers and all other emergency personnel. For three years, we have invited the families to the ranch for a day of fun. Buckaroo Days are held one Saturday in June, July and August. Along with lunch, we have hay rides, outdoor games, paint the horses, horse rides, a devotional and crafts.
We are also holding our fifth anniversary summer celebration and concert on June 22 featuring Scott Helmer's One-Man Rock and country show.
For more information and volunteer opportunities visit the website: www.eaglesnestranch.org.
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