BENTON, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Growing up isn’t easy, especially for young ones who endure adverse childhood experiences. Making a New Way in Benton supports these vulnerable children with loving mentors and animals.

“I’ve always been so disheartened when I see injustice with kids. By no choice of their own, were they abused or neglected or a parent die or horrible divorce,” said Yvette Harrell, Program Director of Making a New Way. “They didn’t choose that, but they’re affected for a lifetime. So I was very encouraged to find a way to help.”

Helping to heal — with horses.

“Every day, we will do some kind of horse activity whether it be an obstacle course, grooming, or something free in the round pin, where they have to interact with their behavior and the behavior of the horse,” Harrell said. “And then we’ll do some kind of chore. We set all of that up so that the child might get stressed a little bit. Not much, because we learn what their levels are. But they’ll succeed. And then they walk away kind of conquering something that day.”

Visiting Holly Hill Farm in Benton just once a week for about an hour can remap behaviors and emotional intelligence.

“A real common activity we’ll use a lot is this one is called the bubble, and the bubble is trying to get a horse to engage or not engage based on what we do within our bubble,” Harrell said.

“And that makes the child really aware that what he does on the outside matters. Because if you’re jumping up and down, or if you’re angry, or you have this giant angry attitude, they’re not coming in. And but they want them to. So you can talk with a child and change some things, do something different. You can manage what’s happening right now, and change what happens with that horse.”

Kids and teens get the opportunity to build life skills outside of the classroom in an encouraging environment.

“Kids, for whatever reasons, you know, they struggle academically or just having the self confidence to read out loud in school. There’s some issues in there that get to get worked out when they read to the horses, because there’s no judgement. If they say a word wrong, nobody cares, no one’s going to correct them. If they stutter, or if they pause for five minutes to figure out a word, nobody cares. And it is a huge confidence builder. And I love seeing that. I love seeing their face when they get up, and they finished a book. And it may have taken them a long time. But Patti doesn’t care, buddy doesn’t care,” Harrell said.

There’s no judgement for the children and parents.

“I also really love it when I have a parent that calls me and says, ‘Hey, this happened at school, and it was really bad. Should I come?’ And I’m like, yeah! That’s what we’re here for. What I also find is that there’s a lot of shame and embarrassment with, ‘why is my kid acting like this? You know, we’re good parents, we’re good people.’ And no one’s disputing that here. There’s no judgment here. Because we understand where all that comes from.

Making a New Way is accepting applications for their next session that begins in September. Visit their website to apply and learn more about how they can help.