Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an organization doing good work with horses. Today, we recognize Sabino Recovery, a trauma and addiction treatment center in Tucson, Arizona.
Sabino Recovery is a trauma and addiction center located in Tucson, Arizona, including equine-assisted psychotherapy as well as horse time for its residents. President and co-founder Nancy Jarrell O’Donnell kindly took some time to speak with us about Sabino Recovery and its unique approach to the horse as therapy.
HN: Tell us the story about how you got started with Sabino Recovery.
NJO: We’re a relatively new program — we opened our doors in late October of 2015. It was a longtime dream of mine: I worked in-patient treatment as a therapist for many years, and I also worked in equine-assisted psychotherapy as well.
I noticed that in the conventional model of treatment and release, many addicts would relapse after some time and need to come back for further treatment. These addictions and other presenting issues were really just symptoms, stemming from a former trauma. I realized that when therapists worked to identify and address the original trauma, the resulting disorder and symptoms went away.
My husband Jack O’Donnell is the CEO of Sabino Recovery, and he’s been a businessman his entire life. We worked together to form this new model and open Sabino.
HN: How does your equine-related therapy work? Are individual programs shaped depending on the unique need?
NJO: Actually, all of our residents that come through Sabino participate in the equine-assisted psychotherapy. In addition, everyone is involved with the horses in their general treatment — we include “horse care time” on their schedule. They go up the hill to the barn and they learn grooming, and maybe some riding from the staff. They’ll do some of the barn work, like feeding or mucking out.
Let’s say, for example, we have a young man who is very entitled, and that attitude has been causing some other issues. We might assign him to muck some stalls. The very act intervenes on his sense of entitlement.
HN: Can you tell me more about your herd? Where did your horses come from?
We have seven horses at Sabino — one belongs to me and Jack, some were donated from friends who helped us get started. We do have a few that came to us in not-so-good shape; we suspect there was some abuse in their past. Those horses in particular really grabbed the emotions of some of our residents. They served as a powerful metaphor.
We don’t specifically rescue horses, though — we just use horses that are good and broke.
HN: How do your residents come to you? Are they referred?
Yes, sometimes they are referred by their attending professional: psychiatrists, therapists. But many find us themselves, seeking their own methods of treatment — they’ll find us online, or even hear about us through word of mouth. Because our method of addressing a trauma directly is different from the methods used by most addiction centers and treatment centers in the country, we’re becoming known for having a unique program.
Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.