Horses Inspire Hope in Young Women

Wind your way through a peaceful Alpine, Utah, neighborhood to the base of Smooth Canyon and you’ll find 128 acres of prime property housing 13 horses with names like Kokomo, Tarzan and Montego — horses whose mission is to inspire hope and confidence in struggling young women.

By Gail Newbold

Photos Courtesy of Bridle Up Hope

 

Founded in 2012, Bridle Up Hope: The Rachel Covey Foundation was established by Sean and Rebecca Covey, whose daughter Rachel died at age 21. Throughout her life, Rachel struggled with depression but found great joy and relief in being with her horses. She helped many other young women appreciate horses. After her death, the Coveys were inspired to carry on Rachel’s tradition of helping young women overcome personal struggles and build confidence through equestrian training.

 

Depression and Anxiety Common in Young Women

“One in five young women in the U.S. suffer from depression or anxiety,” Sean says. “We had no idea it was so prevalent.”

He doesn’t claim to know why but guesses at some of the causes. “Social media and media in general probably play a role,” he says. “Many girls want to look perfect and make sure their social media posts get enough likes. They see the fun things others are doing that they’re not and feel excluded. They want to get good grades, have a great body, be popular, do well at tests, fit in and get into college. They have to be impossibly perfect. A lot of girls have been abused, that’s rampant. We live in a rough, violent society and girls are young, tender and innocent, and take the brunt of it.”

Sean and Rebecca were surprised to find five girls in their own neighborhood who wouldn’t come out of their bedrooms and were in a deep funk.

“We read the applications for Bridle Up Hope and weep sometimes,” Rebecca says. “We read everything from, ‘My parents just went through a bitter divorce,’ to ‘I don’t feel like I’m worth anything,’ and more. One girl was abused in high school and spiraled downward emotionally. When her mom brought her to us she wouldn’t look us in the face, wouldn’t get on or touch the horses. Five lessons later she was smiling and riding. Thirteen weeks later she was facing her fears and back in school. Her mom kept thanking us for giving her daughter back. This kind of thing happens all the time.”

 

Horses Empowering Girls

What is it about a horse that empowers a girl? “There’s a lot of science behind equine therapy and how it calms nerves and changes brain chemicals,” Sean says. Being able to control a horse many times their size helps girls learn to take charge of their own lives.

Rebecca explains: “On the first day, the instructor says, ‘What horse do you want to meet? OK here’s the halter, you’re going to catch that horse in the pasture. You’re going to be in charge of the horse or he’ll be in charge of you.’ The girls learn that lesson fast. Then the instructor might say, ‘Did you see how you took charge? You can learn to be in charge of your own life in the same way.’ It’s amazing, powerful and it works.”

A horse has the ability to reflect and sense what a girl is feeling, Rebecca asserts. “We let the horse teach them, be with them, love them and it opens the door of hope,” she says.

 

Changing Lives in 13 Weeks

In addition to 13 weeks of one-hour private equestrian lessons, participants are expected to volunteer at least an hour a week cleaning out stalls and performing other horse-related chores. The program also teaches the girls life skills utilizing practices from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” written by Rachel’s grandfather Steven Covey. Ninety-eight percent of the girls who start the program complete it, and virtually every parent of these girls rate it as “life changing.”

Approximately 400 young women ages 12-25 have graduated from the program, which costs participants $1,300. The remaining $500 of the cost for the $1,800 training is covered by the nonprofit’s generous donors and sponsors.

“We went for three years without charging anything,” Sean says. “But we realized the girls and their families were more responsible if they had some skin in the game. But if there’s a girl who can’t pay, we’ll let her in and bear the cost.”

 

Nothing Short of a Miracle

Acquiring the land for Bridle Up Hope was nothing short of a miracle, say the Coveys. The original owner of the prime property had no plans to sell until Sean recounted the story of Bridle Up Hope. He caught the vision, sold the Coveys eight acres of his land for a good price and then donated an additional 120 acres. Zions Bank extended the Coveys an ag loan to purchase the property at an excellent rate. “Zions went to great lengths to help us out. I’m a Zions fan for life,” Sean says.

Bridle Up Hope has big plans for the future. “Our vision is to expand Bridle Up Hope to hundreds of locations throughout the country and the world,” says Sean. At present, 75 girls are on a waiting list who need to get into the program. To sponsor a girl at $1,200 or to apply for admission to the program visit bridleuphope.org.