Equine Program Helps Survivors of Domestic Abuse

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At Project Ponytails, Kristin Duryee uses horses and art to aid women and children affected by domestic abuse.

Duryee, a member of Harderwyk Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich., opened her heart and her yard in 2010, with support from Bethany Christian Services, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, and a private practice psychologist.

“You use the horse as a counselor,” Duryee explained, adding that a trauma therapist in Oregon also consults for the program.  

As of May, 20 clients had used Project Ponytails, free of charge.

Christine and her children were referred to Project Ponytails by a court-appointed counselor.

“It’s a great resource” said Christine. Christine’s daughter Anna, age 10, was quick to share how she feels about the horse she rides at Project Ponytails. “He helps me a lot to build healthy fences around my heart.”

Duryee and Elise Van Tuinen, the equine facilitator, see clients for eight to twelve weeks. At each visit, the client is asked what he or she needs from the horse that day.

“There are so many connections when they’re in an abusive situation and they’re on such a powerful animal to control with love and respect,” Van Tuinen said.

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