GREELEY, Colo. – Non-profit organization Colorado Therapy Horses has just a few weeks left before it could have to close for good.
The program provides therapy sessions for a wide array of patients, including children with learning disabilities, victims of abuse, criminals and veterans with PTSD.
“Just let people interact with [the horses] and learn to build a relationship because the opposite of fear, which is at the root of all the stuff, is love,” Richard McMahan told FOX31.
McMahan and his wife founded Colorado Therapy Horses in 2003.
“I knew there was some kind of power in a horse, so I started experimenting with it… in how we could help patients with substance abuse, because I’m a substance abuse counselor, and it worked,” he said.
CTH is unique in that patients do not ride the horses. Instead, they simply interact with the horses from the ground. Patients can hug them, pet them, draw on their bellies with chalk and groom them.
The interaction can help patients overcome fears and develop positive emotions that they can channel into other aspects of their lives.
McMahan specifically raised the horses to be up close with humans. While the animals can still be potentially dangerous due to their size, they do not kick, run or scare as easily as other horses.
“My wife and I raised all of them from babies and so they’re like our kids,” McMahan said.
In 2018, CTH saw 6,889 patients. According to McMahan, the results are comparable to a miracle. However, now the non-profit is hoping for a miracle of its own.
“I might be a therapist but I’m scared,” he said. “There’s no better way to be honest with people and say, ‘We need help.'”
CTH says it costs about $8,000 per month to feed and care for its 17 horses. Additionally, the non-profit must pay a staff therapist to work with patients and for insurance.
“We were taking Medicaid and getting paid by them and then it started being tougher and tougher and then it totally went bye-bye in November,” McMahan said.
He says Medicaid reimbursements were the main source of income for CTH.
“We had a lot of patients from Department of Human Services here and we had a contract with them but we can’t get paid by them. We can’t get reimbursed,” McMahan said.
They had also been receiving contributions from oil and gas companies. However, McMahan says the companies have stopped giving financial support due to the uncertainty of the future of the oil and gas industry in Weld County.
In order to stay afloat, McMahan says he sold the land where the farm is located and has been using the profit to lease the farm back and fund monthly care costs for the horses.
That money is set to run out by the end of August, or sooner.
“If I had to get rid of [the horses], it would kill me,” McMahan said.
What’s worse, he says there are thousands more patients that could benefit from the equine therapy that would not be able to get the help they need.
CTH is hoping a corporate sponsor will step in to help fill the financial gaps. They are also asking the community for support through monetary donations.
On Saturday, July 13 at 10:30 a.m., CTH will host a “Horse Yoga” session to help raise money to keep the doors open (14272 County Road 72, Greeley). The class is donation-based.
Colorado Therapy Horses accepts direct donations on its website.