Raven Rock Report

Raven Rock Report | January, February & March 2018

As the gray days of winter slid into each other, I felt the need to write to you all. The days were so full, so short, so dreary that it took a spring day in April to snap me out of the doldrums.

Today lollipop-yellow Scotch Broom bushes burst into an alive sweetness. Sun-drops splashed onto the trail before me through the tiny mint-green buds on each limb. Trees bloomed in pastel pink and white, while songbirds crooned their love songs to their mates. Spring is a time of renewal and promise that cannot be missed. It lifted me up and helped me recall many of the wonderful things that have happened at Raven Rock this first few months of 2018.

We finally finished, I mean FINISHED the Family Center! We built the covered arena in September of 2016. But we ran out of money, and as we never use credit or debt to do anything here at the ranch, we simply had to wait. And wait. And wait. In 2017 we gathered enough funding to put in spray-foam insulation (largely thanks to Liberty Road Foundation who has been alongside us the whole way). Then waited. Then we could put up sheetrock. More waiting. After our fabulous event in October, we felt that our funds were adequate to just “get ’er DONE!” Electric had to be finished (thanks to Well Grounded Electric who put in the initial wiring and fixtures), along with some gorgeous finish work – ceilings of tongue-in-groove, cedar-covered posts and beams by Bill Rus, who also painted- walls and floors. The icing on the cake is our beautiful granite ledges under our giant tinted windows for viewing. The granite ledges were donated by Western Tile & Marble and they are exquisite!

Whew! I’m exhausted just reporting all of the work that has been done. If you can, please come by to see our incredible space. We always welcome visitors.

It is getting so rough out there in the social battleground that is adolescence, some of our kids have asked their parents for mental health therapy. What they do not understand is that what we do here IS mental health therapy, but done in a way that doesn’t look like the therapy they recognize.

One such boy of 10 wondered why he came here and “just did stalls.” I realized it was time to tell him. Most of the time our kids are very “anti-counseling” as they have gone over their problems so many times with no real help. Therefore, we do not mention that we are doing counseling unless they ask.

I began by making him aware that most every bit of trauma we all experience is somehow connected to a relationship. At RRR, we do relationship repair, because what was damaged through a relationship can only be repaired in a relationship. Usually, relationships with people, even those who love us, are complex, have expectations and can be frightening or threatening. A relationship with a horse has none of that. It is neutral, natural and always authentic (see below neural pathways #3, Divided Self).

When we work on 6 neural pathways that govern relationships, and we team up with a horse to develop this work, we can build new neural pathways that overcome the old pathways. The old ones have kept us thinking (for example) that all men are abusive, if we have had an abusive man in our lives. We may have been told that is not the case. That is “talk therapy.” But it takes experiencing a safe relationship to change our neural pathway.

The 6 neural pathways are:

  1. Body or Feeling – Centered awareness
  2. Boundaries – Trust and respect
  3. Divided Self – Authenticity versus acceptance
  4. Play – Sensitivity and action in balance
  5. New Pathways – Beyond dominance: Imagination and Possibility
  6. Caring – Putting relationship ahead of performance

I explained that when we practice these important experiences with a horse, who understand completely each neural pathway (for example, horses are always feeling into their bodies for the important information it gives them- Am I in danger?) Their heart-rate and other body sensations tell them what they need to know. Kids, however, are often dissociated and shut down from trauma so they can’t tune into their body sensations and thus, their emotions that help them be a fully functioning human being.

This work is very cutting edge, so it is so difficult for some to understand. It seems to many that we give free horseback riding lessons to disadvantaged kids. Nothing could be further from the truth. We offer scientifically-based neural work for traumatized kids.

All of the kids we have explained it to have embraced it, knowing that every single thing we do has a purpose and will net them a very positive outcome. This young man was no exception. He thought about what we were doing here and decided that it was, indeed, helping him fill some of the holes that losing his mother to cancer had opened up. Now Ruthie caresses him with her soft, loving muzzle and teaches him about caring for another being. She cares for him and she receives his caring brush strokes and occasional hug with warmth and grace (see neural pathway #6, Caring) He has confided in me that he feels that he did not get enough “caring” before he lost his mom. It is a beginning. Old pathways are never erased, but the new pathways can become stronger and stronger over time so that they dominate that child’s relationship template. It transfers to the people in each child’s life.

I absolutely LOVE questions about this new kind of therapy, so if you have any questions, please just ask.


  1. April 25- Noon-1:30pm Liberty Road Fashion show benefitting Raven Rock and Olive Crest
    Tickets are free and a wonderful lunch with some RRR models will be provided. Please join us-just let me know if you want to come!
  2. May 9– Seattle Foundation Give Big- the event that draws financial support from many large corporations in our Seattle area-please mark it on your calendar- we are counting on you to Give Big to RRR through the Seattle Foundation
  3. May 19– 6-7:30 Friend Raiser- wine and cheese for your friends and colleagues who may want to know more about Raven Rock. Meet the horses, enjoy a glass of wine and see a demonstration. Leave your checkbook at home! Please ask some people to join us that evening!
  4. July 15 1-4pm Raven Rockers’ Summer BBQ & Fun afternoon- features Poop Pitching contest!
  5. October 5th “Just Imagine…” Annual Auction Gala at Chateau Ste. MichelleSAVE THE DATE!!

My warmest thanks and hugs to all of you who we call Raven Rock Family. We are humbled and proud to have you on our team. Brothers and Sisters in HOPE.

Blessings, Sandy

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