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ANIMAL THERAPY: Horse And Soul Ranch

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A horse ranch in Winneshiek County will soon be one of three sites in the country that will provide equine therapy for victims of domestic violence through a national nonprofit called Freedom Horses.

It's the first of its kind in northeast Iowa, and something many believe will be valuable.

"Instead of being a victim, we want them to be a survivor. We want to encourage them with confidence and help them get back to where they need to be," said owner Loreen Houdek.

Houdek has multiple horses, some of them are survivors of abuse and neglect.

"They got a second chance. Second chances are always good," she said.

In a couple of months, Houdek will open up her property to women who have been impacted by domestic violence.

She hopes her horses will provide them with therapeutic comfort during a difficult time.

"The horses are going to be their therapy. I'm not a therapist, but the horses will be their therapist," she said.

"They know if you're feeling bad, if you need a hug and some love," she added.

Advocates who work with domestic violence victims believe the equine therapy will be a good addition to services already available for their clients.

"It's a form of service that we don't have that we can refer people to," said Executive Director of Helping Services for Northeast Iowa, David Runyan.

"I think it'll be a wonderful resource for healing," he said.

Houdek said community members have already been helping in various ways.

She said she's still looking for donations of boots and helmets for riders, as well as financial contributions to help cover insurance for the site.

"If I could help just one person that would be just a blessing," she said.

For more information on how you can help, you can email Houdek at horseandsoulranch@yahoo.com