At the first-ever Hay Bale Ball in Aspen, Colorado, invited guests ate and drank in support of our wonderful place, Smiling Goat Ranch, which implements a wonderful thing: The Horse Boy Method. It was a good time with people who have many things in common – especially big hearts. And this good time allowed us to spread the word about our work to entirely new group of people.

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Using The Horse Boy Method, Smiling Goat Ranch helps humans heal through interactions with animals – mostly horses. The Horse Boy Method is a clinically proven program putting those with neuropsychiatric conditions like PTSD, autism, anxiety, and depression into a healing environment with service horses and small social animals. We started with autism, as I am an autism mom. And then we started to grow. We learned quickly that our work is immensely useful for a larger group of folks: veterans with PTSD, kids with ADD and/or ADHD. And then there were more: kids who are in trouble with the law and need to do community service, counselors who deal with domestic violence and abuse and need some kind of support for themselves from all they are exposed to and deal with on a regular basis. Counselors who work with suicidal and/or depressed teens.

And our list grows as we continue to help humans heal – no matter what the journey.

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The testimonies about Smiling Goat Ranch speak volumes about the healing experiences people are able to have here.

“Life changing is the only way to describe it. The team uses my son’s favorite toys and games to push him into doing things that in other surroundings are scary. But the environment at the ranch is so welcoming that he feels comfortable in trying new things out – which for an autistic child is HUGE!”

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And the same is happening at Horse Boy places across the world. Folks: Smiling Goat Ranch is a little piece of the puzzle in our country, in our world. When we started, Horse Boy was just in three countries back in 2015 and now in 2019 we are in 27 countries. TWENTY-SEVEN. And it’s growing. Horse Boy is expanding now into Thailand, Japan and the Philippines.

“We need more places like Smiling Goat Ranch where they apply out-of-the box methods to help those suffering with mental health issues. Their clinically proven program puts those with neurosensory conditions like PTSD, autism, anxiety and depression into a healing environment. There is so much potential to help people where they integrate the outdoors and the healing qualities of animals.” Lt. Colonel Dick Merritt, US Marine Corps (ret)

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In four years of equine-assisted therapy from our little ranch just outside Carbondale, Colo., Smiling Goat has helped hundreds of children and adults, and we made a vow never to let fees hinder healing. We also create community. Because this neurosensory group is not only isolated geographically here on the western slope of Colorado, but this group is also isolated socially. We created a welcoming place that brings the healing effects of horses, movement, and nature together, and we work with the entire family to strengthen them and to continue the positive effects of our therapy when they are away from the ranch. And, so have our Horse Boy colleagues from around the world. We are one big, growing tribe.

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The Hay Bale Ball re-created Smiling Goat Ranch in Aspen at the Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum on Aug. 24. Guests dined with the animals on crepes while sipping batched specialty cocktails from a local distillery. Guests experienced the emotionally powerful sensory work on the horses, met the small, social therapy animals, including goats, dogs and bunnies, and heard testimonials from people who have been helped by our work.

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