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Horses as therapists

Another situation she'll always remember involved a 12-year-old struggling with attachment issues who worried that no horse would choose her. Mona the horse came through for her, though.

"She was feeling nervous and was a very shy, quiet girl, kicking at the dirt with her eyes down. As we were walking toward the field she kept slowing down and we had just entered the ring," said Foster. "Mona was eating grass and she picked her head up from all the way across the field, looked directly at the child and started walking at a very fast pace toward her. I could see that girl was getting excited and Mona came and did the 'choose me,' which was to put her head in this girl's stomach. She looked up at me and said, 'do you think she likes me?'"

Breakthroughs

Foster said it's moments like those where she can see the raw emotion that she believes only shines through with the help of a therapy animal like a horse. Those moments also tell her a lot about her clients. That particular girl communicated to Foster, without putting it into words, that she had always feared not being chosen for her whole life.

"It's quite amazing to watch as it unfolds. I've worked with kids who had stopped talking and horses communicate through their body language so you can't hide what you're thinking or feeling around a horse because they're an expert at reading that body language," said Foster. "What I do is I read the horse and what the horse is communicating, because that's usually what the child is feeling. I can give valuable feedback and information to the therapist."

Her horses serve to comfort her troubled clients, help establish an emotional bond and build confidence and self worth, but they also provide a way for the kids to develop skills they can take away from the horse pasture and into their real lives.

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