Aspen Ranch Teen Residential Treatment Center Introduces Equine Hospice Program

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Equine hospice exposes struggling teens to horses with terminal illnesses and other life-threatening conditions to help manage feelings of loss and grief and other emotional issues.

Our equine program is really changing the lives of these teens

Aspen Ranch , a co-ed, licensed residential treatment center for troubled teens, has developed an exciting addition to its renowned equine therapy program - equine hospice.

In addition to the 60 horses and 5 steers currently residing at the Ranch, the equine hospice program will integrate a small herd of horses with various health problems that require specialized attention and care. Some of the horses have terminal illnesses or other conditions that will eventually require them to be put down. Each student's primary therapist works with a "treatment team" to decide whether the hospice program will be beneficial to them.

The equine hospice program was clinically designed for students with significant grief/loss issues, attachment problems, empathy deficits or other emotional disturbances that require specialized interventions. Students participate in every aspect of caring for the horses, from feeding, exercise, grooming and end-of-life decisions, if applicable. If recommended by the primary therapist, students may assist with the euthanization process, so long as the student is not deemed unduly traumatized by the process.

"Providing the daily comfort care measures and meeting medical needs of the horses encourages students to develop compassion, empathy, a sense of responsibility and a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the care and well-being of others," says Dr. Melodie Rose, Executive Director of Aspen Ranch. "These skills translate later in life to help students become caring and nurturing adults, and to better appreciate the commitment and sacrifices their parents have made for them."

The focus of the hospice program will be helping teens develop coping skills and a healthy understanding of the sometimes harsh realities of health, sickness, grief, loss and death. Students struggling with grief or loss learn that it is a part of everyday life and grow in their ability to manage these feelings in a healthy manner rather than becoming debilitated by them.

"Controlled exposure to feelings of grief and loss in a therapeutic setting is the best way to learn from and work through those emotions on a step-by-step basis through each stage of the healing process," explains Dr. Rose.

Horses have a natural healing power that has been proven effective in physical, mental, and emotional therapy. Their size alone requires teens to confront feelings of fear and confidence, and their responsiveness to human behavior requires teens to reassess their communication methods and body language.

Teens who struggle in their interactions with other people will often accept closeness, feedback and acceptance from a horse. Developing a relationship with a horse, like any relationship, requires a foundation of respect, trust and patience, which equips students with the skills needed to form and maintain healthy relationships with people.

"Our equine program is really changing the lives of these teens," says Equine Director Chad Lyman. "We expect to achieve even greater results with the addition of the hospice program. Students struggling with low self-esteem, academic underachievement, substance abuse, mood disorders, anger and family conflict will learn how it feels to sacrifice for others and make a difference. They will build relationships with these animals and rediscover a sense of pride and self-worth."

Aspen Ranch is a residential treatment center located in Loa, Utah. In 2005, the nationally syndicated "Dr. Phil Show" featured Aspen Ranch in a segment on struggling teens. Based on the core values of respect, responsibility, relationships and integrity, Aspen Ranch offers a program that provides adolescents with a supportive structure and therapeutic activities that address specific developmental skill and knowledge deficits as well as emotional and behavioral problems.

Aspen Ranch iis a proud member of Aspen Education Group, the nation's largest and most comprehensive network of therapeutic schools and programs. Aspen Education Group offers professionals and families the opportunity to choose from a variety of therapeutic settings in order to best meet a student's unique academic and emotional needs. Aspen is a division of CRC Health Group, the nation's largest chemical dependency and related behavioral health organization. For more information about Aspen Education Group, visit or call (888) 972-7736. For more information about Aspen Ranch and the benefits of equine therapy, please call (877) 231-0734 or visit

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