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Minneapolis St. Paul News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | Minneapolis, Minnesota | kare11.com

Former racehorse now healing as therapy horse

Acres For Life is a non-profit centered on 60 acres in Forest Lake.

FOREST LAKE, Minn. - After eight good years of racing at Running Aces in Columbus, Minnesota, Gooch's Bad Boy's career was over. A leg injury forced him into retirement.

Lasst September, Gooch moved to his new home -- 12 miles east to the Acres For Life Therapy and Wellness Center. It's here he's found a new purpose.

"This guy likes to read me," said Renee, who grew up in St. Paul and had never been around horses.

"It was time for me to take a different approach to how I was going to deal with stress," said Renee.

So, she came to Acres For Life, a non-profit centered on 60 acres in Forest Lake.

"This is truly psychotherapy, so the individuals coming to us are struggling with trauma," said Sally Mixon, a mental health professional and equine trainer at Acres For Life.

Like stress, addiction, depression, and PTSD. And, Gooch was struggling, too.

"Gooch was something special. He's a gentle giant. He has a look in his eye that you just knew his race wasn't done," said Mixon.

As Gooch healed, he started helping others heal, like Renee.

"They have a way of knowing everything that I'm going through," said Renee.

It's called EAGALA, an equine-assisted psychotherapy; it uses a team of licensed mental health professionals, equine specialists, and a herd of horses.

"So, they can pick up things, smells, energy, things inside of people before we ever know they're going on," said Mixon.

Sensing it, the horses then act it out, symbolizing what people are going through internally.

"We're looking for shifts and patterns and unique behavior in the horses. So, the horses are giving us an external perspective into what's going on internally in the client," said Mixon. "It becomes a metaphor of their life, their story, of their journey. So, the horses will become symbols, representations of things and people in their life."

There's no riding, just thinking and watching the horses.

"I'm much more open and I can live in the present now, and I can process my feelings now and deal with them and move on," said Renee. "I can do it holistically through them. I don't have to do it through western medicine."

If you'd like to learn more about Acres For Life, they're having a "Big Hat Gala" on Thursday, May 3rd at Running Aces in Columbus. It's hosted by the Invisible Wounds Project.