Sexual assault survivors and those who deal with other kinds of trauma, have found peace in equine therapy at the Barnabas Farm in Murrells Inlet.
The survivors say the simple, calm presence of the horses is therapeutic in itself.
“It helps to calm me, it soothes me. I find that when I’m with the horses, if I’m not checked in with them, if I step out of myself, then they step out too, so it kinds of reminds me to stay present,” said Carrie Cheley, a sexual assault survivor who’s in the therapy program.
For Cheley, all the thoughts that rushed to her mind after being sexually assaulted went away when she started equine therapy at Barnabas Farm.
“I was made to feel like I was in the wrong, you know, if I hadn’t been wearing jeans, and if I hadn’t been out at night,” she said. “You know, if I didn’t date the kind of people I had dated.”
Sexual assault survivors who have been through the therapy sessions at Barnabas Horse Foundation say that presence, just being with the horses, helps them the most.
Cheley, not only a sexual assault survivor, but also a veteran, says although she felt she had to accept that her attacker got 3 years in jail, the day she met the horse she’d later train with was unforgettable.
“When I walked up to Compliments something happened,” she said. “Now I’m going to get emotional too, but I just, I burst into tears and I knew that there was something. He felt me, he felt what was going on with me, he felt my distrust. And, we just connected after that.”
Sue McKinney, the president of Barnabas Horse Foundation, is a sexual assault survivor herself and started the foundation to help others going through the same thing.
This is the only alternative therapy program in South Carolina funded by a victim advocacy grant.