Karli sitting with a horseHorses have been the central part of my life for as long as I can remember. Inside, I am forever that little girl. You know the one. The girl that points out every horse on a road trip; that has horse-themed wall calendars and mugs; that watches every horse movie unless it doesn’t end well for the horse. I am also lucky enough to have had many, very special equines in my life.

For as long as I can remember, I have also wanted to contribute to building healthier communities. Communities that protect the vulnerable, foster respect, promote opportunity, and empower individuals. PRA, its staff and our amazing network of colleagues who are equally as passionate about effecting positive social change, is the space that has allowed me to pursue this passion in a meaningful way for over a decade.

My personal and professional passions usually remain apart. When my worlds collide, I like to acknowledge how lucky I am to be part of both. I recently provided ambulatory transportation for a horse that required emergency care at a local equine hospital. On the drive, I learned how beloved and utterly special this horse was for child and adult clients at a local therapeutic riding facility. Equine therapy is commonly used to address physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges. It is a modality used with groups that PRA works with – at-risk youth, individuals in the justice system, veterans. Listening to the stories of this one horse and reflecting on the horses and people I have known, I believe that, for some, the relationship between horse and human is profound and life-changing. For both human and horse.

A movie released in March 2019, inspired by true events, portrays one such relationship between an individual who was incarcerated and a wild mustang in the federal prison and mustang rehabilitation programs (The Mustang). These programs aim to foster therapeutic bonds between inmate and horse, ensure that wild mustangs rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management receive proper care and training to transition to domestic life and provide rehabilitation opportunities for inmates. (To read more about the prison mustang program, read Wild Horses and the Inmates Who Gentle Them. To learn more about the plight of wild mustangs, visit Return to Freedom.) There are other, similar programs for thoroughbreds coming off the racetrack (Wallkill Correctional Facility).

Super Bowl 2019 was held earlier this year. It’s also known as “best commercials of the year” day. This year, a WinStar Farms commercial challenged individuals to share how horses have changed their lives (#horseschangedmylife). This feels like an impossible challenge. At least today. All I can say is that, for me, horses help me become a better human being each and every day. I aspire to possess a fraction of their humility, power and grace in spirit (not always a physical grace), and ability to forgive and love unconditionally.