Peace Ranch was founded by Paul and Jackie Kaschel
Our story began in 1995 when three beautiful little girls joined our family through Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan. They had been “rescued” by local authorities from severe neglect and abuse. Though Paul and I were both licensed therapists, none of our training or education prepared us for what we would encounter as a family. Our little girls were broken and deeply wounded in ways that, as the years unfolded, we realized we could never fix.
Our days started chaotically and no matter what we did ended with our children screaming themselves to sleep. We learned our girls’ struggle was called Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), a lack of bonding that resulted from the neglect they incurred. So we began to reinvent everything about our lives to meet their needs. Our schedules became structured, even rigid, but this was what they seemed to need to feel secure.
We explored a number of treatment options to try to address the needs our girls had, but traditional therapy and medications were not helpful. Paul and I had met taking a counseling course at a residential treatment center in New Hampshire which used an experiential approach to growth and learning in a farm setting, and we wondered if something like that could be helpful. So, we decided to make a break from suburbia and moved to peaceful Hoosier Valley to develop our family farm. Farm life and hard work drew us all together and helped our struggling children. The daily rhythm of caring for our menagerie of animals seemed to regulate them. There were dogs, cats, chickens, a goat, and horses; but the horses seemed to help them the most, giving the girls a sense of identity, purpose and increasing their self-confidence.
January 2005 signaled a shift when the rare pinto Morgan stallion I bought to expand our breeding program turned out to be a lemon. Fancy had been drugged before being transported to our farm, and we woke the next morning to find a wild thing screaming through our pasture. He didn’t trust people and we couldn’t catch him as he lacked the most basic handling skills. The challenge felt beyond me. However, using the skills I had learned with Vinnie, a colt I was working with, little by little I earned Fancy’s trust. By summertime, Fancy was transformed from a dangerous animal to a responsive, safe individual. Witnessing the transformation in Fancy inspired us all.
In the fall, I helped teach a Natural Horsemanship class for Horse North Rescue. The class was designed to teach women planning to adopt rescue horses how to handle horses with special needs. During the class, I had an epiphany. As we worked with the horses, I found myself teaching concepts I had often addressed in therapy with my clients—things like understanding boundaries, developing clear communication skills, self-management, and developing leadership. The women began to apply these concepts to their lives, and they grew personally as a result. For the first time in 10 years, I considered returning to counseling, wondering if anyone else had connected the idea of horses helping humans with their psychological and emotional needs.
This idea resonated deeply in my heart. I researched and learned about a rapidly growing field of experiential therapy called Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning which uses horses as “therapists” for emotional growth and learning. Making the connection between how horses helped in my own chaotic upbringing, my children’s’ pain and brokenness, and even in the women in my class, increased my passion for wanting to offer this unique therapy to others.
In January 2007, we presented the vision for an Equine Assisted Therapy program and proposed its development to the Paraklesis Inc. Board of Directors.
Paraklesis is a Greek word which means “to come alongside.” We founded the 501c3, a Tax Exempt, Christian Organization in 1990 to come alongside people in need of traditional, affordable, Christian counseling services through Forest Lakes Counseling.
The proposal was accepted unanimously. We began to liquidate our breeding stock for the development of our “therapeutic herd.” Some came through local rescue organizations, others we purchased at a low price after they suffered some kind of breakdown with failed rehab attempts. The goal was to develop a herd comprised primarily of rehabilitated rescue and throw-away horses. We felt the synergy of using rehabilitated horses and humans in need of rehabilitation would be powerful and effective.
Along the way, many people caught the vision and joined with us to make it happen. As the community grew, so did our vision. The parallel process of rescue, rehabilitation, and restoration for horses and humans touched the hearts of many in ways we could never have predicted. In 2010, we gave our vision a name, Peace Ranch, descriptive of our surroundings, our vision for horses and humans, and our services: Professional Equine Assisted Counseling and Education.
Peace Ranch serves hundreds of people every year from all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of issues. The ranch also has a dynamic volunteer force. Together, we are serving the community by fulfilling our mission to achieve our vision.
Let Horses Lead You to a Better Way
Peace Ranch offers EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) which incorporates horses for emotional growth and learning. EAP is a team approach to issues with a licensed therapist, an equine specialist working with the clients and horses to address treatment goals. Clients learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns.