Breaking the Cycle of Trauma

Last year we piloted the Stable Moments program that uses a tailored curriculum focused on helping those who have experienced trauma. This program offers mentorship and equine assisted learning activities to help students learn: independence, emotional awareness, responsibility and more. Stable Moments is especially important for kids who have been in the foster system, lost loved ones or been adopted. Currently, in Kentucky there are 9,700 kids in foster care, 1,350 of which are in our region. Our hearts break for these kids who likely have experienced emotionally overwhelming and highly upsetting events that have caused deep-rooted feelings of mistrust, fear, and anxiety.

Those traumatized in childhood and adolescence are at an increased risk for:

  • Social and behavioral problems, such as relationship difficulties, risky sexual behavior, aggression, and criminal behaviors.

  • Impaired psychological health throughout the lifespan, including, but not limited to PTSD, depression, substance use/abuse, and suicide attempts

  • Cognitive and academic problems, including, but not limited to low IQ and reading scores, delayed language and cognitive development, and poor academic performance.

  • Neuropsychological alterations involving areas of the brain that regulate emotion, control of emotions, judgment, and problem solving, in addition to the stress response system.

  • Impaired physical health that can endure for decades, such as an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, liver disease, pulmonary disease, auto-immune disease, and obesity.

  • Higher use of mental health and medical services.

  • Increased rates of unemployment, poverty, and Medicaid usage.

  • Childhood mortality or early death.

For every three additional types of trauma a child experiences, the child is:

  • 53% more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system,

  • 204% more likely to receive mental health services,

  • 216% more likely to receive child welfare services,

  • and 25% more likely to receive health services.

I don’t know about you, but I find these stats are overwhelmingly dark and depressing...but there is hope! We passionately believe in the hope and healing of Jesus Christ and we are 100% positive that the world would be a better place if everyone spent 15 minutes a day with a horse.

Stable Moments provides hope, healing and horsemanship opportunities by pairing one participant, with one horse and one mentor for 10 months. For an hour a week, this team works together on equine facilitated learning activities, teaching these children how to communicate with their horse through body language, energy, and pressure. This lets them develop a greater capacity for empathy, social-awareness, and self-awareness. As these youth get comfortable in their routine with their mentors and horse, their willingness to apply themselves improves. This success eventually translates to home, school and community settings.

Children who have suffered abuse and neglect have good reason to be untrusting of people. For these children, the horse provides an alternative being with whom they can achieve a partnership through trust. This type of relationship—which is often foreign to these children—can be the beginning of building more stable connections with other humans, hence the name Stable Moments.

Allie Barnett, Safe Haven Equine Ministries Founder & Director, was speaking about the program and said, “So far it's provided awesome moments of connection between our participants and their horses. Empathy learned. Walls broken down. Trust earned. Boundaries tested. Unconditional acceptance given. Confidence instilled... and so much more! There is no limit to what you can learn from a horse.”

We’re excited for the next season of Stable Moments to begin in August. Our hope is to see lives changed and the cycle of trauma stopped in our community. We are currently looking for additional volunteers and mentors to partner with us. If interested, please apply here:

Additionally, if you know someone who could benefit from the Stable Moments program, please refer them here:

For more information on trauma, please go to

This post was written by Stephanie Willis, a Safe Haven Equine Ministries Board Member since 2017.

Allie Barnett