Boys find help through horses at Campbell Lodge

Steven was 11 years old when his emotional outbursts at school and at home led to a stay at Campbell Lodge Boys' Home, a 115-acre, year-round, residential treatment facility in Northern Kentucky.

"He came in not able to trust adults or peers," says Barry Jones, executive director.

Before he could learn to trust anyone else, Jones knew, Steven needed to trust himself. So, like every other young man at Campbell Lodge, Steven went to the stables. There, he encountered 1,200-pound horses, integral members of the facility's equine-assisted counseling program.

After seven months, Steven learned to lead, ride and groom horses. At the same time, he learned to trust himself and his family. Now back home with his parents, Steven is one of hundreds of young men learning how to relate to people by working with other herding animals, horses.

"It's experiential," Jones says. "Your feelings and thoughts come out within the exercises." As they lead horses through obstacle courses, young men deal with fear, frustration and issues of personal space. Working through problems with horses provides a model for working through problems in life outside the lodge's boundaries.

Jones explains that equine therapy has been the primary focus at Campbell Lodge for six years, though last summer marked the groundbreaking of the equine center, which allows for year-round interaction between youth and horses. Residents learn quickly which of the six horses is most laid-back--that would be Buddy--and which is prone to bite--usually Scooter.

"Traditional talk therapy was not always as effective as we wanted it to be," Jones says. Horses provide powerful physical metaphors for many problems that face residents, many of whom must confront a variety of mental health issues during their stay.

Residents have to communicate with the horses and with each other to be successful at the Lodge, whether they are in equine therapy sessions, learning grooming techniques or volunteering to help children with disabilities enjoy time with the horses.

Jones says the experiential therapy builds confidence and skills that residents carry with them once they leave the lodge.

Do Good:

Fill a need. Whether you have a spare pool table no longer in use or the ability to donate lots of personal care items, Campbell Lodge will put items on its wish list to good use.

Have dinner out. The Lodge's annual Springfest, a fundraiser dinner and silent auction, happens March 5, 2011.

Donate online or join the e-mail list. Find out how you can best support this 53-year-old regional resource that now serves up to 25 young men at a time.

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