Goats, donkeys and horses are not generally associated with the holiday season, but at Straightening Reins’ new location and during their first annual “Holiday at the Ranch,” they are.
While kids petted the barnyard animals, adults walked the grounds of the nonprofit’s new facility, located in Castaic, sipping on warm drinks and perusing vendors.
“We’ve been here two weeks,” said Debbie Rocha, the founder and owner of Straightening Reins. “And we’re just going to start the holiday season off.”
The new facility for Straightening Reins sits on 7 acres, with a 2.5-acre pasture, a goat pasture on the back side of the property, a full-size arena and a 10-stall horse barn, Rocha said.
“It provides us with a safe, supervised place for kids to figure out who they are and where they want to go to really work on their mental health or mental well-being,” said Rocha. “There’s something to be said about moving a 1,400-pound animal and learning how to navigate those animals and get them around. You just build that confidence.”
Rocha said the students who come to SRD work with the program’s trained mental health experts while working, from the ground, with the horses and animals. Rocha said the “equine-assisted psychotherapy” can help children with anxiety, depression, behavioral issues and more.
One such student who was helping volunteer and run the “Holiday at the Ranch” event, Landon Schobert, said she had been coming to Rocha’s ranch since she was in the sixth grade. Now a freshman at College of the Canyons, she sits on the board and wants to help the nonprofit that helped her so much while growing up.
“It’s helped substantially just with my mental health, just staying calm and having an outlet to go to, to work at, and feel like I’m a leader and feel like I’m in charge of something,” said Schobert. “Today our event will help with proceeds all going straight into the organization, which helps feed, helps fund our programs.”
Schobert said the “Holiday at the Ranch” event also helped get the word out to the community about the mission of Straightening Reins. “The more people that know, the better.”
The event featured vendors selling holiday goods, free drinks and food, a petting zoo, and raffle auction. The horses were also brought out of the stables for people to pet and visit with them.
“I think there’s nothing better than starting your holidays with the animals and our community coming together,” said Rocha.