A Glimpse into Why Big Star Ranch is Making a Difference

Barbara Jo Finch & Julie Simpson-Daniels

Located in beautiful Molalla, a specially trained herd of “horse therapists” help students overcome their grief, face their fears, build self-confidence, learn to trust, foster a sense of responsibility and develop problem solving skills. A therapy horse is a very special animal. They need to be patient and kind and slow to react…yet responsive at the same time. We have an amazing herd of horses at Big Star Ranch. Each horse has had special training and each one has their own story and history. Their training and history have molded their unique personalities over time and instilled them with the gifts for working with our students.

It is important for you to understand that while magic happens at Big Star Ranch, it doesn’t happen in one lesson or sometimes even a year of lessons. Each student has different needs and challenges. Big Star offers equine assisted programs to children and adults who come to us with a variety of behavioral, emotional and learning challenges. When we think of children who are handicapped we usually visualize wheelchairs or leg braces. We are not yet equipped to work with these types of disabilities, but most of our students are handicapped – it’s just that their handicaps aren’t quite so visible. They come with broken hearts, no self-esteem, fears we can’t even imagine, poor or nonexistent impulse control. This list just scratches the surface. All of these are “hidden handicaps” – hidden at least until the steam valves on their internal pressure cookers blow.

Lessons at Big Star are much more than learning to sit on a horse without falling off. All the students learn how to approach a horse, how to groom them, how to be comfortable around them and to respect and be patient with them. They learn that the horses are loving, intuitive creatures who want to be friends. Even those students, children and adults, who come to Big Star just to learn to ride, come away with a better sense of themselves and how to deal with the world. Big Star’s heart is helping our students to be the best they can be.

Parent Testimonial - Julie

Ten years ago, I was searching for a place for my 8 year old daughter to begin riding lessons and I found Barb and Big Star Ranch. Rose is now 18 and has transitioned from a student to a volunteer at Big Star Ranch. Working with the horses grounds her and since she has been working with the horses and riding at Big Star we have seen remarkable growth in her, particularly in the area of patience. She is more patient with her brothers and much more patient with herself.

In January 2016, my son, Russell, started lessons. He was diagnosed ADHD, with anxiety, hyper-focus, inattention and low self-esteem, just to name a few of his challenges. I had heard from Big Star parents how their children were different after lessons at Big Star Ranch. After seeing my focused, attentive, confident son approach and work with the horses, with a grin a mile wide, I am a believer. Russell is a different child when he is working with the horses. The focus and confidence are really amazing and these have translated to school and to life. He is now 14 and is also a volunteer at Big Star Ranch.

Thank you Barb and Big Star…for giving my children a place where they feel balanced and confident.