Who We Are
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Second Chance Ranch, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, has served the community since 1999. We hold the record for the largest and longest standing canine and equine rehabilitation and training/behavior modification program in the Pacific Northwest before transitioning into an Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning (EAPL) program in 2012.
Our program, Leading With Horses, is a platform for mental health professionals to incorporate Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning (EAPL) into their existing treatment program, as an alternative to conventional talk therapy. A collaboration of mental health professional and equine specialist offers a more holistic and comprehensive approach in providing solutions and treatment.
EAPL is successful at helping youth and families to better understand their behaviors and develop skills that will give them positive results in society. It increases confidence and decreases anxiety as they learn coping skills to regulate their emotions and navigate choices.
Our Executive Director, Katie Merwick, is available to facilitate the visits. Katie has enjoyed more than 43 years as a successful Animal Behaviorist, trainer and author. As Founder and visionary, Katie has served on the board of SCR for 23 years. Therapist who have extensive equine experience may opt to handle their sessions privately. Our learning philosophy used to instruct the horsemanship part of the program is based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – a modernized type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and fundamental psychology. The developmental processes that include emotional behavior, self-control, perceptual, and cognitive development and sequential learning.
Our special collection of retired sport horses have been together for more than a decade and are distinctively trained to partner with people. In a number of ways, they demonstrate their exceptional capacity of teaching and healing abilities. Our program does not include riding or riding instruction at this time. EFP is focused on human skills, not horse skills. Allowing horses and client to interact naturally and of their own free will is what leads to change in people’s lives. Of course there are boundaries and safety training involved – still, it’s more about the relationship between the horses and clients, not the relationship between the facilitators and clients. Professionals are there to facilitate opportunities and bring perception or realization to the lessons being learned.
We invite whole families to a program that encourages communication and results in emotional growth within the entire family.
No prior horse experience is necessary for the client/patient. In fact, the more unique the experience is, having not been around horses, the more powerful and effective it is. Our platform is not intended to be the sole location of a therapist’s practice. We provide a workspace and collaboration opportunity that many therapists could not otherwise offer to their clients while maintaining full control of the counseling aspect.
Read more about how Equine Assisted Therapy (EAPL) works!
The History of Second Chance Ranch
Second Chance Ranch was founded in 1985 and received it’s nonprofit 501c3 status in 1999. SCR Founder, Katie Merwick, has devoted her adult life to professional animal welfare, as a behaviorist, trainer (including animal actor training), caretaker, specializing in physical and behavioral rehabilitation.
As the Pacific Northwest’s first cage and kennel free, no-kill animal rescue for dogs, SCR pioneered the now popular trend of rehabilitation in a home environment for dogs and use of a foster home network. SCR holds the record for the largest and longest standing canine and equine (thoroughbred) rehabilitation and adoptive program in the Pacific Northwest before transitioning into an equine assisted psychotherapy program in 2012.
SCR was the first to implement many of the adoption policies and shelter guidelines that are standard today. 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.
Methods implemented to train or instruct animals are based on the concepts of fundamental psychology; the cognitive developmental processes that include emotional behavior, self-control, perceptual, and sequential learning. Katie was one of the first to utilize positive reinforcement with associative and cognitive learning along with sequential learning in animal training.
In 2004, SCR concentrated its focus on a Thoroughbred horse program and became the Northwest’s first 501c3 rehabilitation and transitional facility exclusive to Thoroughbreds. Since that time, SCR has 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 Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) program, “Leading with Horses." This change came in part to keep up with the current needs of our community. The necessity for mental health programs cannot be overstated. Katie wanted to demonstrate the value of horses beyond the show ring or as a backyard pet. She felt that SCR could be more productive in helping both the equine population and the community by giving them a job! This program was also intended to supplement the budget.
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 always flexible to meet the current mental health needs in our community. We depend on the support and generosity of the community to deliver an outstanding mental health solution and opportunity.
A few of our accomplishments;
More than 2,500 dogs and 1,500 horses have been rehabilitated, trained and adopted into forever homes
Over 500 additional animals have been rehomed 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 (beginning in 1982);
A nonprofit that provided professional training and behavior work to rehabilitate in a home environment;
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 for [Katie's] work in animal nonprofit welfare
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 for SCR's contribution to thoroughbred rehabilitation
2019, 2020, 2021 - 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).
2020 Equine Coach and Artiste, Bruce, inducted to The Horse Stars Hall of Fame by the EQUUS Foundation and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF)
2020, 2021 Awarded the GuideStar Platinum Seal