Spirit Reins

Ranch offers horse therapy for children

A faith walk—that is how founder Rhonda Smith describes her story with Spirit Reins, an organization that helps children who have experienced trauma start healing through horse therapy.

Smith had a near-death experience in 1999 when she was part of a 12-car accident with an 18-wheeler.

"I walked away from an accident that I should not have survived," she said.

For the next few years, she asked "Why me?", trying to discover what she was supposed to do with her life. She was no longer content with corporate human resources, although she loved helping people. So one day, the lifetime horse owner quit her job and told a Realtor friend she wanted to buy a ranch.

Founded in 2003 in Liberty Hill, Spirit Reins started with experiential learning but evolved into a therapy-based program. Rhonda Smith attributes program director Tim Jobe, and his wife, Bettina, who is the clinical director, with Spirit Reins' growth.

During the last year, the program's client base increased by 400 percent, which led to the opening of the second location of Spirit Reins off of FM 1826.

Often, Smith said, children blame themselves for the negative things they have experienced, but once they are out of those situations refuse to accept any responsibility for future relationships.

For each session, a licensed counselor and horse professional form the therapy team. The client chooses a horse to work with on his or her first day.

When the horses feel a rider has lost control, they are trained to misbehave safely in a way that frustrates the rider, such as trotting to the center of the arena.

Many emotionally fragile children struggle with the horse's rejection of their commands.

"It's a perfect opportunity to talk about why is that happening," horse professional Rachel Winthers said.

At the same time, the horses offer instant feedback. That is the premise behind the Natural Lifemanship program used at Spirit Reins. Jobe developed the program, which evolved from equine-assisted psychotherapy.

When the rider changes what he or she was doing that made the horse insecure, the horse immediately responds.

Unlike a dog that offers loyalty, horses respond to actions in the moment.

"The only thing about a horse being unconditional is a horse will always be honest," said Shelley Smith, a horse professional who is of no relation to Rhonda Smith. "If you teach them you are unsafe to be around, they will reject you."

Spirit Reins, 515-0845, www.spiritreins.org


Photo of Austin Community College pharmacy students preparing vaccines
Austin Public Health ramps up COVID-19 booster shot offerings, prepares for pediatric vaccines

High-risk individuals who received Pfizer are Moderna doses six months ago or more are now eligible for boosters—as are most recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Oak   Lotus Yoga Studio opened in mid-August. (Courtesy Oak   Lotus Yoga Studio)
4 wellness businesses that are now open, coming soon or being renovated in Southwest Austin

A new yoga studio and a martial arts studio are among businesses opening and remodeling in the area.

The first-ever Williamson County Fair and Rodeo opens its gates to guests Oct. 21 with live music, carnival rides, food vendors, rodeo events and more. (Courtesy Pexels)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Inaugural Williamson County Fair and Rodeo underway; delivery drones coming to Friso and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 22.

The newly approved transportation masterplan for Dripping Springs will add several minor arterial roads around downtown. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dripping Springs officials say proposed roads will not cut through properties

The conceptual transportation plan, approved Oct. 19, identifies locations for new roads that would connect congested roadways in the city.

In addition to the crossing signal, the corridor program office will add high-visibility crosswalks. (Courtesy Austin Corridor Program Office)
New pedestrian crossing signal coming to William Cannon Drive and McCarty Lane intersection

Construction work on the 2016 Mobility Bond project will largely occur Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey briefed City Council on Austin's spending of more than $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding on homelessness Oct. 21. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Officials share outlook of 3-year plan to house 3,000 homeless people in Austin

Although the path to build more than 1,000 new spaces for those without shelter will take time, officials believe the goals are achievable.

Photo off APD sign
Austin police cadet academy review notes positive strides but says instructors lack buy-in to 'reimagined' concept

Reforms at the Austin Police Department academy are mixed so far, while the department and outside evaluators agree on several potential improvements going forward.

The Turkey Trot is returning in person after a virtual year. (Courtesy ThunderCloud Subs)
12 events to fall for in Austin this October & November

From voting on Election Day to enjoying food and drinks, here is a roundup of area activities happening this fall.

Cumby Group is planning development for three adjacent multifamily projects on Manor Road in East Austin, including The Emma apartments. (Courtesy Cumby Group)
3 years in, Austin is falling behind on goals in affordable housing plan

From 2018-20, the city only reached 12% of its 10-year goal to build thousands of new homes and rental units.

Taco Palenque is now open as drive-thru only in Round Rock. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Taco Palenque opens in Round Rock; Plano ISD considering two draft calendars for 2022-23 school year and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 21.

The Austin Transit Partnership is exploring above- and below-ground options for a transit center at the East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley intersection. (Courtesy Austin Transit Partnership)
Project Connect plans to explore above-, below-ground options for East Riverside/Pleasant Valley Transit Center

After hosting a community design workshop, the group overseeing Project Connect designs is moving forward with options for both an underground and above-ground station at the intersection.

A calculator created by the Rocky Mountain Institute looks at the environmental impact of TxDOT's proposed designs for I-35 in Central Austin, one of the most congested roadways in the country. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nonprofit's tool says TxDOT I-35 expansion proposals would have profound environmental consequences

The tool says that the proposal would create between 255 and 382 million additional vehicle miles traveled per year.