Second Chance Ranch (SCR), a 501c3 nonprofit organization, has served the community since 1999. We offer a safe sanctuary and permanent residence for a herd of retired sport horses. Leading with Horses (LWH) is our Equine Facilitated Learning and Psychotherapy program that is unique to the Northwest. This is a non-riding program with our distinctively trained horses who partner with us to demonstrate their exceptional capacity of teaching and healing abilities.
Our program serves any part of the population who are being treated by a physician, psychiatrist, licensed therapist, counselor or educator, with a strong focus on youth development and family counseling.
In order to maximize the positive impact on our community, Leading With Horses is the only platform with a work-space that is open to all licensed mental health professionals, including psychologists, therapists, as well as social workers or counselors at school districts, as well as established youth groups and homeschooling associations who interact with all of the healthcare sectors.
No prior horse experience is necessary - our equine coaches and human horsemanship instructors have worked as a team for more than a decade. We provide a work-space and collaboration opportunity for both for-profit and nonprofits who could not otherwise offer animal assisted therapy to their clients while maintaining full control of the counseling or treatment aspect.
Some of the critical issues our community faces today are substance abuse, suicide prevention and anti-bullying. Leading With Horses provides an environment that fosters growth and healing to those seeking a life changing journey, and who are moving forward from physical or mental trauma.
It is our belief that creative learning environments will put kids and young adults on the path to becoming tomorrow’s forward thinkers, innovators and leaders.
The History of Second Chance Ranch
Since 1983, SCR Founder, Katie Merwick, has devoted life to professional animal welfare, as caretaker, trainer (including animal actor training), behaviorist, for dogs, wolves and horses while developing adoption policies and shelter guidelines. Using her unique insight and training from The Pacific Institute, she incorporates and applies animal psychology into her training and rehabilitation of both domestic animals and wildlife. Katie has pioneered many innovative solutions for helping homeless animals and providing education to the community.
Second Chance Ranch was founded in 1985 and received it’s tax exempt status in 1999. As the Pacific Northwest’s first no-kill animal rescue for both dogs and horses, we pioneered the now popular trend of a cage-and kennel-free environment for dogs. SCR held the record for the longest standing canine and equine (thoroughbred) rehabilitation and adoptive program in the Pacific Northwest before transitioning into an equine facilitated learning / coaching program in 2012.
Katie's methods implemeted to train or instruct horses, dogs, and humans is based on the concepts of fundamental psychology; the developmental processes that include emotional behavior, self-control, perceptual, and cognitive development. Katie was one of the first to not only utilize, but teach the differences between, associative and cognitive learning along with sequential learning while training animals.
In 2004, SCR concentrated its focus on a Thoroughbred horse program and became the Northwest’s only 501c3 rehabilitation and transitional facility exclusive to Thoroughbreds. For the next nine years, SCR made an impact on the lives of horses and their owners in our community through direct intervention, education, and community outreach. Our specialization was the rehabilitation, transition training and adoption services of Thoroughbred race horses from the racetrack into second careers.
In 2012 SCR announced a shift in the mission to further develop an Equine Facilitated Learning and Coaching program. “Leading with Horses (LWH)” offers an Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL), and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) program that is fresh and unique to the Northwest. "Leading With Horses" is an innovative platform for mental health professionals to utilize while engaging with clients. Our Equine Facilitated Learning and Coaching (EFL) program is non-riding and psychotherapy based, in an environment that fosters social, emotional, and behavioral growth.
As a nonprofit organization, Second Chance Ranch's primary funding comes from grants, private donations, and fundraisers. Our progress and contribution to the community is ongoing and also in transition as we continue to develop our EFL program(s). Our most significant challenge has been to find a suitable and permanent location, and we continue to seek a solution.
Using donated and volunteer resources, SCR has established a record of successfully providing our greater community with education and outreach resources. Second Chance Ranch depends on the support and generosity of the community for success!
A few of our accomplishments;
More than 2,500 dogs and 1,500 horses have been rehabilitated, trained and adopted into forever homes since 1985.
Several hundred additional animals have been re-homed through our virtual placement program.
SCR pioneered many of today's standard practices in the animal welfare industry
The first (at least in Washington and Oregon) to use legally written contracts for animal adoption and fostering, and to provide/share generic documents for others in the industry to use;
The first to use and promote a cage and kennel-free environment at home for the rehabilitation and re-homing of shelter animals;
And, a nonprofit that provided professional training and behavior work;
The first to create a safe network of foster homes with guidelines
Katie Merwick was one of the first (at least in the PNW) to introduce the same cognitive science and positive reward theories as with teaching humans to training dogs and horses.
2000 - A recipient of the National American Red Cross “Hero of the Year” award
2008 - The first and only Special Achievement Award from the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association for her [Katie's] work with off the track Thoroughbreds
2011 - The first Charlynn Taketa award from the Thoroughbred Exhibitor’s Association.
2019 - Awarded the "Guardian" status by the EQUUS Foundation for transparency and work in equine therapy.
2019 Thoroughbred of the Year award - won by equine coach, Bruce, for his work in equine therapy. This award was from the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP).
In addition to many published magazine articles, in 2009 Katie was a contributing author (Chapter 3) to the book “Second Chance Horses” by Blood-Horse publications.