According to Runnin’ Free Ranch Co-Founder Amy Dojahn,
I was 3 years of age when I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and was not able to walk after the age of 10. Despite experiencing much physical pain in my childhood, I still have sweet memories of riding horses with my cousin, playing “horses” with my Breyer horse collection and reading the black stallion books. I truly was a young girl who loved horses. But living with a disability also brought insecurities, fears and rejections. As an adult I sought to find meaning in the suffering that lead me to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, believing that in my weakness God is strong. I also began the path of becoming a licensed professional counselor which became a realization in 1994.
Fast forward, my husband and I are now co-founders of Runnin’ Free Ranch, a dream God birthed in me as a child, to partner with horses to help others experience freedom as I did and still do even though I live with a crippling disability. Runnin’ Free Ranch, founded in 2015 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to provide a non-judgmental, non-pressured environment where veterans, individuals with special needs, at-risk youth and their families can experience freedom, hope and positive life-changing relationships through the facilitation of equine assisted counseling/activities at no cost to the client.
Why do we partner with horses in counseling? Because you can’t fool horses as we can with people and horses do not judge you like people can.
“Horses look through the masks we wear and the things we say. They see who we really are. They gauge our intentions in a thousand invisible ways that have nothing to do with the words we say. They shy away from the barriers of fear, self-centeredness, jealousy, anger, impatience. They are drawn in by kindness, understanding, concern, openness, love.”
–Lisa Wingate, Over the Moon at the Big Lizard Diner
Runnin’ Free Ranch is of humble/small beginnings operating on about an acre and a half, with 3 rescued horses. But we rejoice to see the work begin and North Texas Giving Day has been an integral part of our beginnings. In 2017 through North Texas Giving we raised $1,000, in 2018, $3,000 and in 2019, $7500 and we are excited to see what 2020 holds.
A quick overview of our growth: In 2016 Runnin’ Free Ranch facilitated 80 equine assisted counseling sessions, in 2017, 300 sessions, in 2018, 470 sessions, in 2019, 572 sessions. We are at full capacity with only one counselor, myself, and one horse person, my husband, 3 horses and a little over an acre. But we do not believe God is done yet. Our vision is to see Runnin’ Free Ranch on more acreage, with more horses, helping more hurting people in need of freedom.
To find out more about Runnin’ Free Ranch go to https://www.runninfreeranch.org/
* Photo credit: D.J. Dohan **Graphic provided by Runnin' Free Ranch
In 11 years, Communities Foundation of Texas’ North Texas Giving Day has pumped more than $290 million into the North Texas community. In 2019, more than $50 million was raised through more than 169,000 gifts benefiting over 2,988 area nonprofits.