Zuma's provides a place of sanctuary and healing for the voiceless Humans and animals In the metro Denver region.
Zuma's Rescue Ranch was launched in 2004 when the Messenich's, Jodi and Paul, rescued their first Horses. Prior to the rescue the Messenich family operated a lucrative Hunter Jumper facility, located in the beautiful foothills of Littleton, called American Sport Horses. After 8 years of success in the show horse industry, the family became weary of the rigors of competition and decided to downsize and sell their property.
As the Realtors were signing the property listing with Paul and Jodi Messenich, the 146 acre property was struck by lightning and went 10 acres went ablaze. Needless to state, the listing did not go as planned and the appointment was rescheduled for two week in the future.
In the two weeks between listing appointment, they received a call from a friend who had 7 horses who needed rescuing. With their compassionate nature for horses they could not refuse and took the 7 horses in hopes of finding new homes for them. After years of rescuing horses and never selling the property, a decision to rent their farm house to help with expenses brought in a family full of foster children. This serendipitous meeting ended up being the turning point for the Ranch, from being show barn to a rescue ranch that helps foster children, at risk youth and horses all in one.
After years of working with at risk children and cast off horses the realization that some horses and children are treated by society other same way, being neglected and labeled as damaged by society. 80% of the children usually find themselves incarcerated and more than 100,000 of the horses are put down or taken to slaughter. It seemed with this knowledge earned that their destiny was to care for and help both children and horses.
The organization formed relationships with local Social Service providers throughout the metro Denver region where the connection with children and horses began. The bonding and love both horse and child receive, neither had not, or probably wouldn't have received from a society that failed them and in which there was no trust. After just a few sessions with the Equine Therapy Partners, the kids began to understand who they were, understood they had a place in society and took remarkable turns for the better. The horses lives were saved and received the love and compassion they deserved from the children. With the love and compassion Jodi and Paul gave and received from their horses, knowing how it felt and seeing the same with the kids they realized what the signs they had received were. It was then Zuma's Rescue Ranch became an official non-profit organization for both the kids and the horses.
The need for services grew, the Messenich family realized from working with the kids and the horses, the need to expand its' services to not just youth who were at risk, but to children who are afflicted with behavioral disabilities, sure to face some insurmountable challenges if they did not receive more experiential type therapies beyond what they would receive at a normal medical facility or in their homes.
The Ranch expanded their services to children and youth with developmental disabilities teaching them how to care for the horses and receive love and affection from them in return. They would start from the ground training on up to mounted learning with their furry long maned companions where they partnerships would build an even stronger bond.
Their programs and staffing grew larger as time went on to make the ranch what it is today. They still operate as a horse rescue and rehoming facility and are certified with many national horse associations, as well as, mental health associations for the children and youth they work with. They have a holistic approach to working with the children and youth where they educate and give them the skills to cope rather than to be medicated. In society today we are too quick to "medicate" rather than to "educate." Medication seems to be the "easy way out" of spending the time to change behavioral patterns and teach good nutrition to help troubled children.
Zuma's mission is about serving as advocates and mentors for abused and neglected horses in need providing them with the trust and love they need to take the next step successfully into our world, for whom children have so much to learn from. Horses have a unique ability to sense the need for love, acceptance and guidance in the children who will accept and care for them, giving it in return.
They have a garden where the kids learn to grow healthier foods to help with maintaining diets which will not exacerbate some of the many disorders the children come to them with. In most cases children in foster care will develop many mental, emotional and developmental issues resulting from depression, problems at their educational facilities, with relationships in their futures and often they are abused and neglected. At the ranch they approach the "whole" child or youth, educating and mentoring them through love and trust by the bonds developed with the horses and then nutritionally with the gardens and staff education. They also are pulled away from televisions and some of the other media which tend to add to the mental issues they are dealing with by working hands on in the gardens and around the ranch with the horses.
The Ranch is a 501, C (3) non-profit organization with indoor and outdoor arenas, 5 pastures, 14 paddocks, 26 stalls, private therapy arena, recreation room, restrooms and a full kitchen. It is also available for Horse Shows, Corporate Picnics, Weddings, Clinics and Training Events.
The ranch has been awarded many grants from the ASPCA, the Phillip S. Miller Award, the Penny Harvest Grant from Sagewood Middle School Students, Fidelity Charitable from Mary Dixon and the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter Hero for Animals Award.
There are five programs that are currently operating at Zuma's Rescue Ranch: Zuma's Equine Assisted Learning (Z.E.A.L.), Wellness with Horses, Behavioral Consultation, Mentoring Program, and Horse Rescue:
Zuma's Equine Assisted Learning (Z.E.A.L.) provides academic tutoring, mentoring and equine assisted learning to children of the greater Metropolitan Denver area. The goal of the program is to assist in identity development, increase coping skills and self efficacy and foster long lasting relationships with mentors and horses.
Wellness with Horses is a group experiential learning program for families and children currently experiencing transitions such as divorce, separation or death of a loved one.
Behavioral Consultation provides behavioral support to foster families and families in transition by increasing appropriate behaviors and decreasing inappropriate behaviors. The goal of this program is to create an environment which better supports appropriate behaviors and decreases inappropriate behaviors by changing antecedents and consequences of various behaviors.
Mentoring Program provides children with a positive adult role model with whom they can build a positive long-term relationship.
Horse Rescue provides a second chance at a healthy, happy, and meaningful life for horses living in abusive environments or whose lives are on the path to slaughter. The goal of the program is to retrain, rehabilitate, and eventually re-home rescued horses.
Today, Zuma's Rescue Ranch retains a volunteer base of over 1,200 community members, provides a home to 41 rescued horses, and serves over 50 at-risk children and family members per week.
My name is Philip Tedeschi and I am a professor at the Graduate School of Social Work and the Director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection. Since 2008 I have maintained a close working relationship with the Equine Programs at Zuma's and have watched a steady progression toward excellence. I have supervised students completing their master internship at Zuma's each year as well.
When I first was introduced to the program it was searching for effective models and was utilizing an Equine Assisted Therapy model that was limited in many ways for working with the complex challenges facing many of the youth their program.
Each year Zuma's has found ways to grow, self evaluate, expand their expertise ad apply best practices and he most current search available. The outcome of his comprehensive ecological process has been a program that is designed to nurture the whole child in ways that are unique and remarkable.
Zuma's integrated experiential systems programs has established a new standard of care for both the youth and animals on their program and a place that each living being feels they genuinely are valued and belong.
A Mother's Story:
My son ___ has been active at Zumas Ranch for several months now.
I have seen this type of activity from 2 view points. Several years ago I worked in Mental Health. A home was purchased in the community and we had 5 people who lived there. At this house we were able to have a farm with a variety of animals, the enjoyment that our people received from the care, and the nurturing of those animals were very impressive. These were adults with Mental and Physical disabilities many of them looked forward to caring for the animals that lived here.
The progress that I have seen in____ since coming to Zumas is very difficult to put into words. 6 Months ago, he was anxious, had a doom and gloom outlook on life, easily distracted from activities, had a very low self esteem, and we could not depend on him to make the acceptable choices in some situations.
He now can be away from us and enjoy time on his own without worrying about something happening and he knows if he needs to he can now make appropriate decisions to handle situations(such as friends talking him into doing things that could be dangerous or that could get him into trouble.) Shows more more maturity, and we are able to leave him home alone and allow him to go and do things without having to be supervised by an adult,(he would often have to go with me to do errands, or work because we could not trust him to know his limits on his own) also he now has his own house key. Previously we would worry about his decision making abilities in case of emergencies.
_____ was offered a scholarship, and in the beginning I thought to myself, how is cleaning stalls, other barn chores, and just being about these horses going to help my son. The scholarship ended and we decided to keep him involved here, and it has been worth it. WE have found that he looks forward to coming to the Ranch, he has never asked to miss time here, and is always asking to come on nonscheduled times. ____ is a nurturing type of person, knowing that he cares for a horse, and has accepted responsibilities for the farms environment has given him a tremendous amount of self esteem, and pride. We have even had friends comment on how they have noticed that when he walks down the street he carries himself differently and walks with his head up, and seems happier when they speak with him. He now has the attitude that "I can do many things, not just what society thinks or says I can." The work needed to accomplish some things may be hard, but it is all worth it in the end. He often speaks about the horses here, and how good he feels when he has developed a bond with them. Zumas is his favorite subject and will often speak of it to whoever will listen. He has mentioned that he would like to continue with this in the future years. He has mentioned that he wants to continue his education, and get into this form of work, to both improve the life of children and animals.
I am sure that the horses have benefitted from the kids being here also, who knows what they may have gone through. Working with the kids may have helped them to build the trust with humans that could have been lost to previous circumstances and has improved their lifestyle for the future.
It takes a tremendous amount of care and understanding to work with our kids and the unfortunate circumstances that have brought the horses to the ranch. It takes 2 key elements to accomplish the progress that has been made with my son, both staff and horses, without 1 the other would not succeed. I would like to thank everyone involved with our children, and the sponsors of Zumas Ranch for giving my son, and all the children who come here the opportunity to interact with each other. I hope that you can find it in your hearts to continue with the support of Zumas. There is no way of knowing what child or animal could benefit from the efforts put forth here at Zumas in the future.
Some times words are just not enough! Participating in a guided experience with our horses you can see many of the herd dynamics mirror family dynamics. This mirror effect can provide a safe space to begin recognizing family behaviors and begin open discussions about how to peacefully work through differences.