Alba describes her son as an old soul. From the time he was little, he was sweet and loving, and a “big hugger.” But as the pandemic wore on, the 16 year old became more introverted and was spending more time on his own. He expressed his anxiety to his mom, but didn’t know how to talk about it. Alba, a nurse, knew he needed help but after calling more than a dozen mental heath providers, she was no closer. “I left a lot of voicemails, and kept hearing ‘we aren’t accepting new clients.’” One day, Alba and her son ended up at the emergency room. “He couldn’t breathe and his chest was pounding.” It was a panic attack. Still unable to find a counselor, Alba turned to the family’s primary care doctor, who prescribed medication and gave a referral for counseling, but that was another dead end.
“I ended up posting on the Billings Classifieds Facebook page,” says Alba. “And someone recommended Chinook Horses.” Alba had never heard of equine therapy, but she got an appointment within two weeks and decided it was worth a try. “I wondered how it would work – it’s not like traditional counseling where you sit and talk. Instead you get two people, and a horse! At the beginning, the Chinook team told us that he didn’t even need to talk to them: he could tell the horse his problems.”
The change in Alba’s son came right away. He made a deep connection with the horse. “He has a name for her, he grooms her, and now he wants to have one of his own someday.” Alba describes her son’s experience with Chinook Horses as “unlocking and unblocking” him. “It’s back to basics. He’s learning skills like breathing and communication.” Alba’s son is no longer having panic attacks, and doesn’t need the medications that seemed like the only available solution before they found Chinook Horses. “He’s back to wanting to talk, and to hugging. This is how I got my son back.”