Blue Star gets a new home

Therapy horse Mariah and Sammy the miniature therapy donkey are lead into the veteran therapy arena by Executive Director Nancy Zhe at the new Blue Star Ranch facility in Santa Clarita on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Blue Star Ranch, a nonprofit equine-assisted therapy ranch for veterans, recently moved to a new location, which will allow them to expand their services.

“This is our corner of the world,” Executive Director Nancy Zhe said as she drove across the nonprofit’s new location in Placerita Canyon. “Where we were we probably had an acre of workable, usable space, (but) this is several acres. There’s plenty of room for all the horses to turn out and run. It’s a perfect location.”

The new location allowed Blue Star to add two new therapy animals to their herd, bringing the total to five, including three horses, a mini horse and mini donkey. These animals help veterans to overcome their barriers through a 10-week program.

Therapy horse Mariah sniffs around props used in the veterans therapy arena at the new Blue Star Ranch facility in Santa Clarita on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“It’s solution-oriented,” Zhe said. “We work on the ground, they don’t ride the horses.”

Instead, during a typical session, veterans will use props to represent some of their current struggles.

“We will set up certain scenarios (to represent) what’s bothering them the most,” Zhe added. “Then, they have to lead the horses through the props.”

With the help of the horses, veterans are able to address their issues.

Sammy the miniature therapy donkey sniffs around props used in the veterans therapy arena at the new Blue Star Ranch facility in Santa Clarita on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“The horse is like a giant biofeedback machine who’s reflecting your emotions, and it’s amazing how the horses pick out exactly what’s going on with them,” Zhe said. “The problems and anxieties just float to the surface.”

Over the course of 10 weeks, veterans are charted on their progress in six categories, which include anxiety, anger, communication and coping levels, among others.

“So far, our statistics have shown that we’ve been hitting on a 35 to 45% reduction of their issues and get them getting control of things in 10 weeks,” Zhe added.

Appaloosa, Captain Jack Sparrow, grazes in the new 60-foot round pen as Executive Director Nancy Zhe describes the large arena and the five acres of flat area of the new Blue Star Ranch facility in Santa Clarita on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

The new location will also allow Blue Star to work with double the amount of veterans at one time, as well as begin offering group sessions.

“Every veteran is different, and not all of the veterans need one-on-one (sessions),” Zhe said. “That way, we can serve more and they also get to support each other as veterans.”

With the extra space, Blue Star has added a 60-foot round pen to the pasture, which will be the perfect spot for therapy sessions, Zhe added.

Appaloosa, Captain Jack Sparrow, grazes in the new 60-foot round pen as Executive Director Nancy Zhe describes the large arena and the five acres of flat area of the new Blue Star Ranch facility in Santa Clarita on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“This is our future,” Zhe said.

Blue Star Ranch is located at 20827 Placerita Canyon Road in Newhall. For more information, visit bluestarranch.org or call 661-312-6184.

Appaloosa, Captain Jack Sparrow, walks next to a golf cart driven by Executive Director Nancy Zhe as they tour the five acres of the new Blue Star Ranch facility in Santa Clarita on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

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