Equine therapy ranch may close if new home isn’t found

SRD Straightening Reins Ranch Executive Director Debbie Rocha, center, looks on as Genessee Therasse, 4, right, feeds Mia a carrot during the 2016 Ranch Round-Up fundraiser at SRD Straightening Reins Ranch in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

At the beginning of the year, Dana Bradford found herself struggling to find help for her 13-year-old child, who was battling severe depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She found the help her son needed at the nonprofit Straightening Reins ranch.

And now, the ranch is in danger of closing, potentially eliminating the care the ranch provides for her child and hundreds of others.

“I’m heartbroken,” said the mother. “They may not have a home, and we can’t let that happen.”

The Samantha Rocha-Dyer Foundation, or SRD~Straightening Reins, is a nonprofit organization that uses equine-centered psychotherapy to promote mental well-being for children and teenagers.

On Monday, Executive Director Deborah Rocha announced that the organization is in desperate need of finding a permanent home after not being able to renew its lease at its current Sand Canyon ranch location. SRD’s original site was in San Francisquito Canyon.

“After our SRD board began renegotiating the lease with the current property owner, it became apparent that the facility will no longer work for the needs of our programs,” Rocha said in a letter to The Signal.

After a Tuesday night board meeting, members are eagerly searching to connect with anyone willing to help as the deadline to leave the ranch approaches on Nov. 1.

“The conversation was about finding steady revenue since we provide services for free,” Rocha said.

Since the meeting, Rocha and the rest of the board have received an avalanche of concerned emails and phone calls from parents, while others have already provided ways they could help.

Among them was Bradford. “I’m working on setting up a GoFundMe page, which funds will go toward the forever home,” she said. “Our kids are suffering, and SRD has benefitted my two kids and hundreds more. They need to stay.”

For over seven years, SRD has provided individual, family and group counseling for those facing multiple challenges ranging from bullying and drug and alcohol use to feeling undervalued by peers. Mental health professionals, equine specialists and animals, like horses and donkeys, work alongside participants through a series of workshops. The combined effort teaches youth about behavioral and emotional issues by understanding that horses are social animals.

Photo by Stephen Jones


“It’s like a mirror,” said Rocha. “Horses will tell you a message with their behavior. This helps the youth talk about their own feelings with counselors after seeing it in the animals.”

Workshops like these helped 774 people last year, with 90 percent of the clients from the SCV. Rocha believes 2018 can top that number but is afraid that may not be the case if a permanent location is not found in time.

Would they consider leaving the SCV if a location elsewhere was found?

Said Rocha: “If someone has that place for us outside Santa Clarita, then we may have to. This is about helping family; we are a family. But we need support.”

How to help

  • Be a sponsor: The nonprofit is looking for sponsors to support the SRD therapy herd, which includes five horses, two mini donkeys, three goats and three hens.
  • Share leads for a permanent location: An ideal property would have enough space to not only support the stalls and arena but also have a house to use for the foster transitional college youth with whom SRD works.
  • Set up a partner meeting: Anyone interested can discuss ideas on how to collaborate.
  • Donate: SRD has set up a GoFundMe page.

For more information about how to help, contact Rocha at (661) 803-1641.

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