When Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton organized a Christmas gift effort for the youth residents of the Arkansas Youth Ranch, saddles and tack were part of their Christmas.
When Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton organized a Christmas gift effort for the youth residents of the Arkansas Youth Ranch, saddles and tack were part of their Christmas. That is because the ranch sites are just that; ranches. The residents help with the horses that are on site, and the horses help them, and chores are to be done on the ranch, which helps the ranchers make their surroundings their true home. Horses are an important part of healing at the ranch. They offer several programs that help ranchers adjust to their new home setting. Residents are encouraged to take part in the riding program especially in the summer months. Early morning and sunset rides over the 528-acre ranch site in Batesville feature fields of knee-high Bermuda grass and the banks of the White River, where the air is cooler. Equestrian therapy also helps ranchers gain the ability to trust, the unfortunate result of a broken home life. Residents will strike up friendships with a particular horse and build memories that last a lifetime—memories of a friend who gave them confidence and a sense of responsibility during a time of low self-esteem and loneliness. “It's interesting to see which kid is drawn to which animal,” Phillip Ives, superintendent of the ranch, says. “Those who have been lied to and abandoned, they tend to seek out the trust of a horse who comes from a similar background. Whent the two interact during therapy sessions, that's when the healing begins, on both ends.” “Through guided sessions on general horse grooming, one-on-one sessions with the horses and a series of tasks related to non-verbal communication, ranchers develop nourishing relationships that help cope with stress find mening in fulfilling responsibilities,” he said. Speaking of horses, Singleton said that “the horse equipment went to the Batesville campus. The ranchers are there because they have been abused or abandoned or their home is not suitable. In some cases, their parents just don't want them. None of these children are in trouble with the law, they just need a place to stay—they need a home and the ranches provide that and much more.” There is a 100 percent graduation rate among ranchers, and many go on to pursue college careers. There are necessary requirements for children to become ranchers at the facilities. Some of those requirements include: • Be a resident—or a relative of a resident—of Arkansas. • Have a legal guardian, which can be DHS. • Be between the ages of six and 17. • Have an IQ of at least 80. • Have cognitive skills necessary to perform routine living tasks. • Have no history of violent behavior that might pose a serious threat to others. • Have no serious criminal record. • Have approval from the sheriff of the county of residence. • Be able to attend public school. • Be willing to attend church of their choice at least once a week. A committee will review each request, based on the information provided. If the Ranch and the applicant are compatible, both the child and his or her guardian will be interviewed by the committee. The Ranch admits children without regard to gender, race, creed, color, religion, national origin, or phsyical handicap. For more information on the Arkansas Sheriff's Youth Ranch, call 870-793-6841, or mail inquiries to: Arkansas Sheriff's Youth Ranches, Inc., P. O. Box 3694, Batesville, AR 72503-3694.